As a rule, Kevin Kline can do no wrong. There is no role he cannot portray, serious or comedic, where he can out act everyone around him. In “Darling Companion”, he is surrounded by some of Hollywood’s finest actors who are definitely up to the challenge… yet he still manages to carry the film nearly single-handedly.
“Darling Companion” is a semi-autobiographical piece by writer/director Lawrence Kasdan (“The Big Chill”, “Grand Canyon”), where the family involved finds a lost dog on the side of a freeway. Deciding to keep him, they call him… well… Freeway. But where one might think this film is about the relationship between the family and Freeway, it decidedly isn’t. What Kasdan does is use the dog as a central focus point for a family that is falling away from each other.
Kline plays Joseph, a rather self-centered surgeon and husband to Beth, played by Diane Keaton. We are introduced to their daughter (Elisabeth Moss), who falls in love with the veterinarian they take the dog to. The romance blossoms into a wedding and the newlyweds head off, leaving Joseph, Beth and a handful of family friends behind to enjoy a weekend in a cabin. While on a walk with Freeway, a distractive cell phone call causes Joseph to lose track of the dog.
From this point, “Darling Companion” becomes what most of Kasdan’s films become… a slice of life tale. The search for the dog allows for conversations to erupt between the central characters, feelings and emotions come to light and life and things are said that are both hurtful and cathartic. We see, especially in the case of Joseph and Beth, how couple can become distant even when living under the same roof. It is sad truth, and one that is harshly delivered here. But ultimately it is a film of hope, so there are silver linings to the dark clouds. The mixture of Kasdan’s script and Kline and Keaton’s performances offer a strong picture of both the dark and the light.
However, “Darling Companion” is not a perfect film. There are circumstances and characters that fill in the story’s blanks that do not ring quite as true. The introduction of a character’s ‘Gypsy descent’ and a hermit in the woods seem out of place and silly in a movie filled with real human emotions.
Sony’s DVD release of “Darling Companion” includes a short behind the scenes piece, as well as a brief look at Kasdan’s legacy as a filmmaker. Additionally, there is a featurette about the actual incident that had happened to the Kasdans and a look at the Red Carpet Premiere. Not a whole lot here in terms of extras, but all are worth checking out.
“Darling Companion” is a nice late evening film about family and feelings, and while it may not live up to the overall classic feel of some of Kasdan’s earlier work, it still serves as a nice addition to it.
Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan
Starring: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass, Dianne Wiest, Ayelet Zurer, Elisabeth Mosssemi
Extras: Commentary by Director Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan and Kevin Kline; Behind the Scenes; Finding Freeway; Red Carpet NY Premiere
Release Date: 8/28/2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13