Darling Companion – 2012
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Starring Kevin Kline, Diane Keaton, Elisabeth Moss, Sam Shepard, Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest, Mark Duplass
Written by Lawrence & Meg Kasdan
What the hell is this? Lawrence Kasdan at one time, was one of the best talents in Hollywood. The Empire Strikes Back, the better half of Return of the Jedi, Body Heat, The Accidental Tourist and Silverado all received the benefit of his attention. I will even throw in The Big Chill. Things got a little looser, whimsical and downright stupid in the ensuing years, reaching a low point with The Bodyguard and French Kiss. The movies became less frequent, and the successes smaller and smaller. 9 years passed between his last bomb, Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, and this most repellent of ventures.
So what, indeed, happened here? This story seems like the story someone would tell years after they gained riches, living like Larry David, and think that they have a relatable story to tell. Unlike Larry David, however, Lawrence has lost his touch with what makes things appeal to us common folk. David knows that his life is absurd, and the only enjoyment we get out of seeing him in his big houses and golf course ventures is in seeing that he is still miserable, usually by his own doings.
Kasdan’s tale about a dog that is found, lost and found again loses its appeal the moment we see that this Doctor (Kline) and his stay at home wife (Keaton) hold the wedding for their second child (Moss) at their second resort home in Utah. The wife is suffering empty nest syndrome, upset that her husband has to perform surgery once in a while. So she finds a dog off of a freeway, choosing to name him “Freeway” and lavishes much attention on the dog. Then the husband loses the dog. And we get to spend the rest of the movie postponing the end of their resort time while listening to a Gypsy’s (Zurer) bull crap visions about where the dog might be. Did I mention that the Gypsy is hot, available and in the sights of the couple’s physician nephew (Duplass)? Oh, well, never mind.
Also along the way, we have the younger doctor’s mother, Penny (Wiest) and her new boyfriend, Russell (Jenkins). Russell is a nice guy, who has a dream for the couple that he is seeking investors for. Surface doubts are endlessly beaten down by kindness and repeated offers to help. Woohoo.
There is absolutely nothing going on here worth anything to the average film goer. One could give two craps about the softly played drama with a few attempted gentle laughs here and there. Thing is, I think Kasdan believes he is onto something here, working out the issues between the middle-aged couple who are experiencing, at worst, boredom. Make that boredom in nice houses and second houses. The dog doesn’t stand a chance in this story.
A lot of good actors and actresses suffer a similar fate. Kline all but disappears, occasionally sniping back at his wife’s frequent complaints. Keaton is in some sort of manic mode. Going from distraught over her children leaving, to distraught over the dog running off, distraught over her husband’s inability to be available at all times, and then grateful for her husband’s attempts, to the point of being completely willing to move on the next day. Yeah, that’s relatable.
Jenkins, Wiest and Shepard are only there to be likable versions of their normal characters. Everyone else is forgettable.
I rented this movie, in large part, because it had a dog in it. My kids wanted to watch it too, but they were mystified that the dog was gone from about minute 25 until just before the credits rolled. The reason they lasted so long is no doubt due to the fact that the characters seemed like adult versions of the Disney sitcom characters they see every day on Good Luck Charlie, Shake It Up or Zack and Cody: Suite Life on Deck. And by adult, I mean not adult.
At this point in his life, Kasdan just wants to tell us that he lives comfortably and he and his wife (and co-writer) have the occasional quibble. Gee, thanks. This is probably very resonant with their friends in the same tax bracket. Now I need to get back to my day job.
(*1/2 out of *****)