Darling Companion is the story of a girl and her dog. They meet on the side of a freeway where he’s bloodied, dirty and weak. A sensitive soul, Beth (Diane Keaton) and her daughter Grace (Elizabeth Moss) jam on the brakes, drive backwards and find him, feed him baby cookies and fall in love with him in the quickest cute meet ever.
At the vet’s Grace finds an unexpected pleasure, Sam, the handsome vet (Jay Ali) another rapid cute meet. Within moments it seems they’re getting married with Freeway the dog the special front-of-the-line guest. Freeway is now a family staple, despite refusal by Beth’s husband, “I prefer Joseph” (Kevin Kline) a work obsessed spinal surgeon whose son and partner Bryan (Mark Duplass) is in danger of becoming as removed as his father is from their family.
The extended family which includes a sister (Diane Wiest), her beau (Richard Jenkins) and their caretaker Carmen (Ayelet Zurer) an attractive Romany woman who can “see things” gather at their mountain cottage for a nice ‘ol time, but Jospeh throws the world into chaos by taking Freeway for a walk without his whistle.
Dontcha know it, the dog goes missing. Beth is devastated not just about the dog but about Joseph’s carelessness, symbolic of his distance from her, and she sees it as the unraveling of their relationship.
It’s fair to say she’s more in love with Freeway than Jospeh for so many reasons, and Joseph is oblivious to it. He barely knows there is anything wrong except that they bicker and she constantly demands that he put down his phone. He’s a bit too keen to leave the mountain and return to work early rather than waste time trying to find the dog. But guilt brings him back and the group begins an exhaustive search for Freeway.
Their journeys through the mountains and woods, encountering a backwoods loner wearing a Harvard sweatshirt, a sympathetic sheriff (Sam Shepard) and various side characters lead them to reflect on their own lives and where they’re coming up short. The search becomes a search for themselves as well as the dog, and this is where I’ll leave it.
The film is obvious, predictable and way too sentimental and will not make hip young audiences happy. But it’s not for those people. It’s a gentle love story aimed straight at the older folks who like uncomplicated and perhaps predictable entertainment.
Nothing horrendous happens, no axe murderers, stalkers, meteors, existential dilemmas or alternate universes show up, just a girl and her dog and her friend helping her look for him. A few things change, some decisions are made and that’s about that. Diane Keaton is always a delight to watch and the dog’s cute.
This isn’t Cloverfield, Cabin in the Woods, Iron Man 3 or an R rated comedy. It’s a simple ensemble drama about changing relationships.
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Written by Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Opens April 20
Runtime: 103 minutes
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for some sexual content including references, and language