Darling Companion

One would think, after reading  that the three K’s, Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, and writer/director/producer Lawrence Kasdan. were involved in the same project, that they would produce something memorable. Unfortunately, Darling Companion, which opens tomorrow (April 20th in New York and Los Angeles) falls a tad short of memorable.

I caught the film yesterday, April 18th, at the Sarasota Film Festival. Darling Companion, despite having an attractive dog on its film posters is really not a film about a dog’s adventures. We meet the dog when Beth (Diane Keaton) and her grown daughter Grace (Elisabeth Moss) rescue an abandoned dog which they had spotted while driving home from the airport. They rush the dog to a vet who tells them the dog is basically ok – aside from a few nicks and bruises – give him a good bath, some solid food, and a lot of TLC and he’ll be fine.

Grace finds this vet called Sam irresistible. We haven’t seen a woman turn on to man this quickly since Julia Louis-Dreyfuss did it repeatedly as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld. Anyway, a year passes, but it’s only a few minutes of film time, and she’s married off, to the vet, never to be seen again except for two brief and unnecessary phone calls she makes while on her honeymoon in Bora Bora.

As for the dog, which they’ve named Freeway, he goes missing while he’s been walked by Beth’s husband Joseph (Kevin Kline) a very successful surgeon specializing in backs and spines. This happens a day or so after the wedding, when they’re up at their vacation home in the mountains.

Beth is very unforgiving. She blames Joseph because a) Freeway was off the leash, b) Joseph was on the phone, and c) Joseph went out without the dog whistle. In fact Beth is so upset by all of this that she has two crying scenes in the first 40 minutes of the film.

With them, at the vacation home, where everyone had gathered for the wedding, are Joseph’s sister Penny played by Dianne Wiest, her boy friend Russell played by Richard Jenkins, and her grown son Bryan (Mark Duplass), who is in fact, a surgeon himself. But that’s only five people – so there’s the gypsy caretaker, housekeeper and cook, Carmen, played by Ayelet Zurerto round this off to an even number of characters, as well as to give Bryan a ‘love’ interest.

Basically, the rest of the film is spent with all of these people searching for Freeway the dog. When they aren’t walking through the woods, or getting lost in the woods, there’s lots of bickering. Beth is still peeved at her husband. There’s lots of talk about Penny’s boyfriend Russell who wants to open a English-style pub in Omaha – you know, where one could have bangers and drink warm beer; only he lacks money.

Then there’s Carmen (above). She’s a terrific looking woman, and Penny’s son Bryan is instantly smitten. Carmen is a gypsy woman, and she has visions (clues) about Freeway’s whereabouts, and everyone follows her visions. Most of which turn out to be useless. But she does tell them not to give up hope. That Freeway is out there and more than likely wants to see them as much as they want him to return.

What we have here is a competent film, with a nice amount of smart, lively, and often quite funny dialogues, built onto the film’s structure which is to find the lost dog. Keaton, Kline and the rest do produce a number of funny moments – many of which are jokes either about sex, or aging, or the combination of both.

Sam Shepard (below) appears as the town sheriff who suffers from kidney stones, and there are a few other oddball characters, who are introduced, in one-off appearances, during various parts of the search for Freeway.

Speaking of Freeway, he’s a rather nice looking dog, but he has so little screen time, and he doesn’t do any tricks, aside from disappearing from the film.

Beth (Keaton) and Grace (Moss) find the abandoned dog moments into the film

So much for the setting up of the film. It’s not a film with any plot twists or surprises, so I won’t give you any more details by way of introducing the film for you.

At the end of the film, the packed house gave it some applause, but not everyone applauded, and it wasn’t as rousing as was the crowd’s reaction to both Robot & Frank and Peace, Love & Misunderstanding which I also saw at 2012 SFF and recently reviewed.

Following the film’s limited opening in just two theaters in the Los Angeles area, and two in New York, the film will gradually open in more and more theaters over the next few weeks.

So if you like Keaton and Kline, and remember Lawrence Kasdan when he was an A-List director and an Oscar nominee along with his work in some notable films like The Big Chill, Grand Canyon, Body Heat, Silverado, and The Body Guard, as well as receiving screenplay writing credits for a couple of Star Wars films and Raiders of the Lost Ark, then be patient. You will have an opportunity to see Darling Companion.

My overall impression is that the film will not be ravaged by the critics, nor highly praised. It doesn’t misfire, or have any cringe-worthy scenes, but it just won’t have you rushing off to tell everyone you know about  it. Include me in the same bunch, that thinks it was okay, but nothing special.   I’ll give the film a middle of the road rating of three-point zero out of five.