Directed by Lawrence Kasdan. Starring Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass, Ayelet Zurer, Sam Shepard, Elizabeth Moss, Jay Ali. (2012, PG-13, 103 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., May 18, 2012
Dogs and spouses: Both make fine companions until they misbehave or run away. Lawrence Kasdan, the filmmaker who so well encapsulated generational preoccupations in The Big Chill and Grand Canyon, tries to do the same for the post-menopausal set in Darling Companion. But this new movie is a trifle, a listless excursion into the luxurious problems of rich, white people.
Fortunately, a stellar cast makes Darling Companion an easygoing movie experience. But still, you wish the Kasdans (Lawrence wrote the script with his wife Meg) had given the actors more to do than chase around the woods and streets of picturesque Telluride, Colo., calling for a lost dog named Freeway. Freeway is a stray that Beth (Keaton) and her daughter Grace (Moss) rescue from the side of the road. They bring him to a vet (Ali), and before the opening prologue is over, Grace and the vet are getting married and Freeway has become the pet of empty-nesters Beth and Joseph (Kline). Since Joseph is a hard-working and emotionally distant spine surgeon, it becomes easy for Beth to bestow her affections on her new, darling companion instead of her old, longtime companion.
Cut to one year later when Beth, Joseph, and Freeway are enjoying a few days of relaxation at their vacation home in the mountains following Grace’s wedding. They are joined by Joseph’s sister Penny (Wiest), her new boyfriend Russell (Jenkins), and Penny’s son Bryan (Duplass), who is also a back surgeon in practice with his uncle. Also there is the home’s caretaker, Carmen (Zurer). While out on a walk with Joseph, Freeway chases after a passing deer and is never seen again until the film’s final frames. The search for the dog consumes the rest of the movie as the group divides into various recombinations to pan out over the area and chase down elusive clues provided by Carmen’s psychic powers. More prosaically, the area sheriff (Shepard) is called in to help while on his day off. The rest is a shaggy-dog story as the search goes down blind alleys, characters rescind their hesitations about one another, and an inexplicably out-of-place animated sequence inserts itself. All tails are wagging by the end.