Darling Companion (Lawrence Kasdan, 2012): USA

Reviewed by Jesse Deason. Viewed at the Arlington Theater, SBIFF 2012.

This film was the opening feature at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in 2012. Seeing Diane Keaton in person along with several members of the cast and crew was a highlight of the evening. The film however left a little bit to be desired. Its a film about interpersonal relationships not unlike previous Lawrence Kasdan works such as the Big Chill and Grand Canyon. Unfortunately Darling companion has done this between characters that for the most part don’t demand that much interest.

The story begins with Beth Winter (Keaton), and her daughter Grace (Elisabeth Moss), finding a lost dog on the freeway in winter. They rescue the cold, terrified and filthy mutt using Dr. Joseph Winters (Kline) freshly cleaned shirt and ties, giving us an early hint of his overall status in the family. At the vet Kasdan shows us his belief in love at first sight when Grace instantly becomes smitten with the young Indian Veterinarian Sam played by Jay Ali. At home the distant Dr. brrrrrrrrrr Winter (Kline) vehemently protests at the idea of keeping the dog to our rescuers chagrin. We quickly move to our Wealthy characters obviously keeping the stray and having the love at first sight wedding between the daughter and vet, (Its apparent Kasdan feels strongly about the medical profession and its providing ideal husbands),which takes place at the family’s vacation home in Colorado. The beautiful home’s caretaker, played by the lovely Ayelet Zurer as Carmen, has a certain psychic quality passed down from a long line of gypsy Matriarchs. Once again her instant love interest is: you guessed it……..A surgeon nephew Dr. Bryan Alexander played by Mark Duplass. Tedious. His soon to be father in law Russel, however, played by Richard Jenkins, is a delightful performance which almost single handedly salvages the film. He’s portrayed initially as a bit of a dead beat but quickly wears us down with his consistent and genuine charm. His relationship with the nephews mother Penny Alexander, played by Dianne Wiest, is cute. Although titled Darling Companion this is by no means a “Dog Movie”. Ultimately its about relationships in a fairly idealistic American family that only some of which are interesting.

If you are a Diane Keaton fan or have enjoyed Kasdan’s films in the past this wont be too much of a stretch. Where this is not either of their best work and certainly not a big stretch from similar roles in the past, this film does have a certain charm that breaks through enough times to make it enjoyable overall.




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