Tuesday, April 24, 2012

SFIFF: Darling Companion

This review originally appeared on the San Francisco Appeal.

I'm not sure how the affable comedy Darling Companion found its way into a film festival that tends to show much headier (and more foreign) fare, but I imagine the name recognition of director Lawrence Kasdan is one reason, even if that cache is based primarily on the films he made in the 80's.

Festival programming director Rachel Rosen introduced the film as another entry into Kasdan's chronicles concerning "baby boomer angst," and that's an apt description. Many of the characters here would have felt right at home in The Big Chill reunion house. And the picture is a family affair, as Kasdan's wife, Meg Kasdan, co-wrote the screenplay.

Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline star as Beth and Joseph, a Colorado couple with a very comfortable life. He's a spinal surgeon, and she's a wife, mother, and newly-turned grandmother who is beginning to face some of the inevitable loneliness of aging when she and her daughter Grace, (Elisabeth Moss), find and rescue a dog on the side of a freeway. They dub the dog Freeway, and Beth decides to keep him, much to the initial chagrin of her husband.

Grace, meanwhile, decides to keep the veterinarian who treats Freeway, and the movie soon jumps ahead a year to their wedding, and the introduction of the rest of the film's ensemble cast, which includes Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass, and Ayelet Zurer.

It is at the couple's mountain retreat, post-wedding, that Freeway runs off, and the rest of the movie involves the quest to find the missing dog, and how this quest reveals and changes the familial and romantic relationships--or companionships, if you will--of the family.

On one hand, it's refreshing to see a movie that caters to and features a solid cast of grown-ups, (with particular strong performances from Diane Keaton and Richard Jenkins). And much of the film is downright pleasant and lovely. (The Colorado scenery adds a lot to the proceedings.) But on the other hand, there's really not a lot of there, there. And much of the time I found myself much more concerned with the safety of that dog than the relationship between his human companions...

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