Harvey Critic - 27/04


When a number of people take residence in a remote cabin in the woods, what do you think will happen? A guy with a chainsaw is waiting for them, of course. But wait. In "Darling Companion," the residents of the cabin located in the Colorado Rockies (filmed in Utah) are all adults, so this is not a horror film.

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Sony Pictures Classics

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter by Harvey Karten

Grade: C+
Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Screenwriter: Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan
Cast: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard, Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 3/26/12
Opens: April 20, 2012

Only high-school or college kids on vacation can be attacked according to the genre. Instead, it's a shaggy dog story, this one literally, right up the alley of director Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan, whose "Grand Canyon" dealt with six residents of different backgrounds living in L.A., whose "The Accidental Tourist" treated an emotionally distant travel writer whose son is killed and whose marriage is crumbling, and whose "The Big Chill" found seven former college friends having a reunion in South Carolina after the funeral of one of their circle, continues his tradition of probing relationships. A marriage begin to fall apart because of a lack of communication and comes together when an outside force surprisingly unifies the couple is Kasdan's story this time, a tale co-written by his wife Meg Kasdan with an emphasis on ensemble acting. The actors are generally middle-aged and well known, but the movie as a whole lacks narrative drive, featuring people who are almost stereotypes of, well types-including the hysterical wife, the self-absorbed doctor, and others who bond during their time as guests of the couple when they must work together to find a lost dog.

Recall that Kevin Kline's character, Otto, in "A Fish Called Wanda" could not figure out why people want dogs. "I don't get it." Similarly, this time around as Joseph, a prominent spine surgeon too much into himself to pay enough attention to his wife Beth (Diane Keaton), cannot understand why Beth would stop the car on the road to rescue an abandoned Collie mix. When she takes the dog named Freeway to the vet (Jay Ali), her daughter Grace (Elisabeth Moss) falls in love with the handsome doc. Some time thereafter when the two marry in a beautiful ceremony outdoors in Telluride in the Colorado Rockies (actually Park City, Utah), Beth, Joseph, and others repair to Joseph's vacation home, a cabin cared for by Carmen (Ayelet Zurer), a Roma with alleged psychic powers.

When Freeway disappears, all head out to locate him, including Joseph's sister Penny (Dianne Wiest), Penny's new b.f. Russell (Richard Jenkins), and Penny's M.D. son Bryan (Mark Duplass). During the manhunt the men and women get to know one another better. Most important, Beth and Joseph find themselves bonding anew, particularly when Joseph has a bad tumble, dislocates his shoulder (metaphor for dislocated marriage?), and has Beth put him together again.

The script ambles on amiably, though Diane Keaton's frequent bouts of hysteria prove numbing as do Carmen's repeated visions (the dog is near this house, no that house, no track down a red-headed woman who will know). The two best features of the movie are an animation to represent Beth's dream of her lost dog's being attacked by wolves and by Michael McDonough's Red One camera's smashing photography-which could serve as a product placement for Colorado, though the entire pic was filmed in Utah.

Rated PG-13. 103 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.

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