Darling Companion

D+ Character-driven comedy

  • Written by Lawrence and Meg Kasdan
  • Directed by Lawrence Kasdan

I hate watching good actors, some of whom I’ve admired for decades, struggle through a bad script. That made Darling Companion a very difficult movie to sit through. Here we have a character-driven comedy almost entirely lacking in either fully developed characters and laughs. If it were not for the inspired cast, which includes Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, the movie would have been an entire loss.

As it was, it came pretty close.

Darling Companion tries to explore the long and not-altogether happy marriage of darlingcompanionBeth and Joseph Winter (Keaton and Kline). But it’s not just about them. Thrown into the mix we have Joseph’s sister (Wiest), plus her boyfriend (Richard Jenkins) and her son (Mark Duplass). And don’t forget the Winter’s Roma (gypsy) housekeeper, Carmen (Ayelet Zurer), thrown in to give us some ethnic stereotyping.

All of these characters all have their conflicts, which are supposed to be interesting.

In Akira Kurosawa’s disappointing final film, Madadayo, he devotes half an hour to the search for a missing cat. Here, the Kasdans expand on this very bad idea, and build the entire picture around the search for a missing dog. You see, Beth rescued and adopted the dog a year ago, against Joseph’s wishes. Now he’s responsible for the mutt running off into the woods. Everyone joins in on the search, which takes them all around a picturesque Rocky Mountain town.

Would you be surprised to learn that everyone’s relationship problems get healed through the act of searching for a missing canine? Me, neither.

Despite its painful predictability, Darling Companion has one genuine surprise. The third-act resolution turned out to be even more idiotic than I expected.

Early in his career, director/co-writer Lawrence Kasdan had a big success with this sort of low-key, character-driven, ensemble material with The Big Chill. He hasn’t succeeded in repeating it here.

I saw Darling Companion at a press screening prior to its local premiere in the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival.