While not entirely audience insulting on a conceptual level, Darling Companion certainly shows once and for all just how far the once great Lawrence Kasdan has fallen as a director. The director once known for helming such masterworks of middle aged malaise as The Big Chill and Grand Canyon and co-writing The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders of the Lost Ark, returns with his first film since the atrocious Stephen King adaptation Dreamcatcher in 2003 to make what should have been a simple story about a married couple and their lost dog. Instead the film becomes one of the most overly melodramatic, nonsensical, and downright amateurish looking films of the year so far.
Reuniting with his seemingly favourite actor/muse Kevin Kline for the sixth time, Kasdan and his wife Meg tell this story of a marriage on the rocks between a self-obsessed spinal surgeon (Kline) and his wife (Diane Keaton) who now doesn’t know what to do in life now that the last of her kids has left the nest. She takes to nursing for a stray dog she names Freeway after finding him abandoned and wounded on the side of the road, and she snaps completely when her more aloof husband lets the dog run away from him while on a retreat to the Colorado Rockies with his sister (Diane Wiest), his future brother in law (Richard Jenkins), his nephew (Mark Duplass), and a random, mysterious gypsy local (Ayelet Zurer) all teaming up to scour the towns and countryside to find the missing pooch.
From the opening frames, it’s easy to sense something’s amiss since the digitally shot film looks like it was filmed with an early-90s handicam. A few seconds later when the characters begin to open their mouths, the stilted and ham-fisted dialog begins to pour out and there’s nothing this cast of talented people can really do to save it. Kline, Jenkins, and Wiest are all good sports doing what they can to inject some much needed humour and life into the proceedings, but it’s like putting water wings on someone wearing cinderblock shoes. As it sinks faster and faster into the most obvious of conclusions, it becomes apparent that the Kasdans’ are only concerning themselves with cramming the film with as much false mysticism and cutsey life affirming moments as possible that the story doesn’t fully matter.
This also fully qualifies as what Roger Ebert used to call “the idiot plot movie,” which means the whole thing could be wrapped up in less than five minutes if one single character bothered to ask any questions or think about they situation they were in. Entire scenes just sort of overlap instead of transitioning logically into one another with Zurer’s character occasionally sending them on pointless side quests to keep giving the already irrational wife hope. Sometimes the film will just simply say “it’s late” and make the characters rest instead of doing the most logical thing in the world. Spoiler: The film makes it know very early that they have put a tracking microchip in the dog. With that bit of information no more than 20 minutes into the film, you can’t help but wonder why the hell this thing exists in the first place.
I did get up to use the washroom, and I apparently missed an animated dream sequence, which I’m kind of bummed about since everyone afterward told me it was the craziest thing in the film. All I saw before that point and after I got back was a film that simply wants to jerk the audience around and drag out its running time for no good reason. There’s maybe a decent 15 minute short hiding in this film, but at 103 minutes, it’s pretty unbearable even with the genuine cast of pros on screen.
Cast: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins, Elisabeth Moss
Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan
Top image: A scene from The Devil’s Double. Courtesy eOne Films.