Saturday, November 10, 2012

Jay's Movie of the Week #45: Darling Companion

A movie so horrifying it should have come along for Halloween, the disastrous Darling Companion was originally reviewed for DVDsnapshot.

Our Take:

The Baby Boomer audience has found itself aged out of those prime demographics all advertisers and movie studios love to reach and, as such, is woefully under-served by today's film market. Lawrence and Meg Kasdan's independent feature Darling Companion seems targeted to reach the same share of this audience perhaps only currently served by Nancy Meyers. Here a group of characters - accomplished, successful, and thankfully more realistic than Meyers tend to be - gather for a weekend of short, supposedly heart-warming character story-arcs that, in the end, add up to little.

Baby Boomers Beth and Joseph (Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline) spar over an adopted stray dog (twee-ly named “Freeway”) that fills Beths's empty nest while also bringing their gratingly germaphobic daughter Grace (the usually wonderful Elizabeth Moss) together with the kind of dashing single Vet (hey, he's still a doctor) who mostly seems to only exist in movies and, one would assume, romance novels.

After Grace's wedding at their sumptuously-appointed vacation home, the remaining guests wind up looking for the runway plot-device... I mean, “dog,” while also dealing with their own issues. Beth and Joseph have to work on both their marriage and her obsessive attachment to the dog; an animal so worried about you'll want turn his name into a drinking game. Joseph's sister Penny (Dianne Wiest) and her new boyfriend Russell (Richard Jenkins) have to come to terms with, seemingly, the downward mobility that comes with a later-in-life change of career. Meanwhile, Penny's son Bryan (Mark Duplass) grow up and work on his new father figure issues with the help of Carmen the caretaker (Ayelet Zurer). She's a mystical gypsy so filled with folksy wisdom she was probably that stereotypical old chestnut, the “magical old black man,” in the script's first draft. Though she claims to have psychic visions of the dog, you suspect she might just like making rich people jump through hoops.
Darling Companion is top-heavy with big name actors, but the wattage is wasted here with this slight fluff. Keaton falls back on shtick (a disservice to her talents), while Kline's character consists of a collection of terms which invoke a writer with a medical dictionary as opposed to a real doctor. He also nearly gets himself killed more than once due to bad judgment, an important quality in a fictional surgeon. Perhaps most disappointing of all is seeing Sam Shepard as a supporting grumpy old man.

This movie is gorgeous and expensive looking, from the Utah mountain vistas to Keaton's Mother of the Bride garb. There's a website called “White People Problems” that may come to mind while watching these well-heeled people lose their grip over their lost pet. While something we all do, I'm not sure anyone wants to see their attachment to their pet played out in irrational near-hysteria on the big screen. This graying pack of shaggy dogs are still in the game, but they're cell-phoning it in here, sliding along with the story into easy characterization and enjoying their two months filming in Utah.

Official Synopsis:

In Darling Companion, Beth (Diane Keaton) saves a bedraggled lost dog from the side of the freeway on a wintry day in Denver. Struggling with her distracted, self-involved husband Joseph (Kevin Kline)
and an empty nest at home. Beth forms a special bond with the rescued animal. When Joseph loses the dog after a wedding at their vacation home in the Rockies, the distraught Beth enlists the help of the few remaining guests and a mysterious young woman (Ayelet Zurer) in a frantic search. Each member of the search party is affected by the adventure, which takes them in unexpected directions – comic, harrowing, sometimes deeply emotional, and ultimately towards love.

Audio & Video:
Audio is available in English and Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD and Spanish 5.1 Stereo while the handsomely-photographed visuals are crisp and clear. Details like fluttering leaves and shadow patterns can make you feel like you're outside when watching this. Even with only stereo audio, rain sounds like it surrounds you.

Special Features:
  • Commentary with Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan, and Kevin Kline
  • Darling Companion: Behind the Scenes (5 minute featurette)
  • Behind the Scenes: Lawrence Kasdan (5 minute featurette)
  • Finding Freeway: Dog People (3.5 minute featurette)
  • Red Carpet New York Premier: Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Casey (the Dog) (nearly 3 minute featurette)
  • Subtitles in English, English SDH, Portuguese, and Spanish for both audio and commentary tracks
  • Theatrical Trailer and Previews


An A-list cast works really, really hard but achieves more tics than truth in Darling Companion. Fluff aimed at the woefully under-served older audience, but somewhat (somehow?) endearing by the end.

Overall Picture:
Movie: C-
Audio: A-
Video: A-
Extras: A-

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