Watching “Darling Companion,” Lawrence Kasdan’s new movie, is like having drink with an old boyfriend – overlooking faults and letting yourself be charmed is do-able, at least for 103 minutes.
Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline play a longtime couple (Joseph is a stuffy surgeon; Beth’s adjusting to being an empty-nester) who gather their family at their Rocky mountain second home for the marriage of their youngest daughter, Grace (Elisabeth Moss of “Mad Men”).
Occupying a front-row seat at the ceremony is Freeway, the couple’s rescue dog. Freeway keeps Beth company while Joseph tends to his patients and was the catalyst to Grace meeting and marrying a cute, caring vet (Jay Ali).
Also in attendance at the wedding: Joseph’s sister, Earth-motherish Penny (Dianne Wiest); her new doofus boyfriend Russell (Richard Jenkins); her son Bryan (Mark Duplass), another surgeon; and the mountain house’s caretaker, the sage and stunning Carmen (Ayelet Zurer). The day after the wedding, on a walk with Joseph, Freeway runs off and doesn’t return; the group then rallies to try to find him. Sam Shepard plays amiable Sheriff Morris.
You can see early on what’s likely to happen with Beth and Joseph’s relationship – their issues are brought to the fore in this Rocky patch. Russell proves to be more likeable and trustworthy than originally thought. Carmen reveals that she’s psychic (she’s a Gypsy of the caravans and curses ilk) and sparks fly between her and Bryan.
The sentimental story, written by Lawrence and Meg Kasdan from their own experience with a rescue dog, is littered with clichés, but nevertheless it’s an intelligent and entertaining piece with a first-rate cast. (Kasdan also directed 1981’s “Body Heat,” one of my fave neo-noirs.) There’s a great chemistry between these players – most of whom are over 50 years old – and watching their dynamics is a simple pleasure.
Kasdan falters in a few key ways. The only thing driving the action is the fact that Carmen has psychic visions. The implausible ending pushes Beth over the edge in terms of all-about-me entitlement. Also, it’s a little hard to accept that a woman of her age and background seems to have little else to occupy her besides caring for the dog.
I saw the premiere with a friend who told me I’m a good sport and that was probably why I liked the movie. Good sport. I’ll be sure to share that with the ex-boyfriend during our catch-up cocktail.
“Darling Companion” opens today in New York and LA. LA City Councilman Paul Koretz declared Friday, April 20, Darling Companion Day in Los Angeles. For info about rescuing an animal, visit the Amanda Foundation.