Coming full circle the film completes his 'Generational Trilogy' which began with his seminal film THE BIG CHILL, followed by GRAND CANYON and it sees Kasdan returning to what he does best, which is bringing a large ensemble cast together and exploring the character dynamics. Where THE BIG CHILL had a group of old friends reuniting for the funeral of a friend, this new film has an extended family coming together in search of a lost dog, who went missing in the mountains following one of their daughter's wedding. It is a simple yet engaging premise that relies on the viewer's love of dogs to initially connect with the characters, after which point the plot takes a back-seat as Kasdan explores the various relationships.
DARLING COMPANION is the second film that Lawrence Kasdan has co-written with his wife – the first being GRAND CANYON (see it) – and it has a sincere quality about it that suggests that they have put a lot more heart into this than usual. It's not a groundbreaking film by any means, nor is it worthy of any accolades, but it feels personal and provides an absorbing and enjoyable way to pass the time. With such a strong cast of players on board, who all give wonderful performances, it's a film that's impossible to dislike.
The cast is lead by Diane Keaton and Kasdan's reliable go-to-guy Kevin Kline. They play a middle-aged couple who have fallen out of sync with each other and don't know how to realign. Both are reliable players who know precisely what to do with the material. Their chemistry is strong and they give two heartwarming and very amusing performances. The rest of the cast is made up of Dianne Wiest, Marc Duplass, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepherd and Elizabeth Moss. It's an incredible cast and they all share an affable cohesion that makes the simplistic plot quite charming and somewhat enchanting.
Sadly given that DARLING COMPANION was made in 2012 it most certainly missed its mark. As mentioned, the film got past me and obviously failed to gain much (if any) traction upon release. It is Kasdan's lowest performing film to date and rates poorly amongst most critics. The cinematic climate has changed and audience behaviour isn't what it used to be, and films like this rarely achieve theatrical release... Now that the video rental market all but dead titles like this rely on a physical purchase, if not a position on a streaming platform. The cast may be composed of Oscar winning talent, but they are mostly aged and past their prime, and their calibre just isn't strong enough to market the film on anymore. It's tragic!
And so, heck, if a little bit of praise from a humble writer like myself can bring DARLING COMPANION to a few more people, then good. It deserves to be seen. If you enjoyed films like HATCHI and MARLEY & ME then you will find an instant connection here. And if you love ensembled character-driven drama like Kasdan's other aforementioned films then you will no doubt find yourself caught up in the shifting dynamics.... it's such a nice darn film.