Friday, June 01, 2012

DARLING COMPANION (Dir. Lawrence Kasdan, 2012)

Lawrence Kasdan’s, newest film - his first since 2003’s DREAMCATCHER is his slightest yet.

All it’s about is a group of people looking for a missing dog. Okay, a few themes are broached - aging, love, the needs of family - but those are just brought up and discarded as these folks go through a few days worried about where their shaggy mutt (named Freeway) ran off to in the Colorado Rockies.

It’s mainly Diane Keaton that’s worried, her self-asorbed surgeon husband Kevin Kline acts like he’s just trying to appease her, especially since he’s the one who is responsible for the dog’s disappearance - the dog runs off chasing a dear while Kline was on his cell phone on a walk in the woods. This is something we have to endure Keaton over-emotionally whining about for a lot of the film’s running time.

Keaton and Kline had just hosted the wedding of their youngest daughter (Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss who pretty much phones her part in) at their vacation house, when this traumatic world-stopping event happened. Some family stay behind to help them with the search: Dianne Wiest as Keaton’s sister, with her son (Mark Duplass), and as her new boyfriend (a way too goofy Richard Jenkins).

Then there’s Gypsy caretaker (Ayelet Zurer) who claims she has the gift of psychic powers. Though the gang is initially skeptical of Zurer’s, uh, visions, they still take it to heart. Just when I thought my eyes couldn’t roll any more, Keaton has a nightmare which is done in animation - a completely misguided move as it tonally doesn’t fit at it all, and is, well, just weird.

Another silly addition is Sam Shepherd as a crusty sheriff. I actually can’t remember if he helps the search or if he’s as useless as the psychic - both as a character and as a plot device.

It’s sad to see Kasdan, the man who wrote and directed many popular (and good) titles including BODY HEAT, THE BIG CHILL, GRAND CANYON, and my personal favorite THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST, (not to mention his screenplays for THE EMPIRE STRIKES AGAIN and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK) have so little to say.

I knew before I read it in the credits that this was based on a true story, because it was so boring that it just had to based on something from the everyday existence of Kasdan and his wife Meg (who co-wrote).

Keaton comes off flightier than usual; she puts a lot of effort into her performance, but try as she might she can’t elevate the weak material that she’s given.

Kline should’ve lived up to his nickname “Kevin Decline” and passed on this (he really doesn’t put as much effort as Keaton into his character), but since he’s Kasdan’s go-to guy (he’s starred in 6 of Kasdan’s movies now) he was probably just doing it as a favor.

In Kasdan’s 1991 drama GRAND CANYON (also starring Kline) - not a great film, but it sure looks like a masterpiece compared to this - Steve Martin plays a slick movie producer who tells Kline that his problem is that he hasn’t “seen enough movies - all of life's riddles are answered in the movies.”

Well not one riddle is answered in the miserable DARLING COMPANION.

More later...

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