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Movie Review: 'Darling Companion'

Like its central character, this film is lost in the woods

Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Rated: PG-13. Running Time: 103 minutes
Stars: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Dianne Wiest, Sam Shepard

Dog: man’s best friend.

But in his latest film, director/writer Lawrence Kasdan (Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Big Chill) portrays the pup as a woman’s "darling companion."

Beth, played by a slightly overacting Diane Keaton, is lonely in midlife, her two daughters out of the home and orthopedic surgeon husband Joseph (never-been-so-good Kevin Kline) obsessed with his work. Then, Beth spots a stray collie mutt along the side of the freeway and takes him into her car — and her life. She and Freeway become inseparable; he offers Beth all the devotion and attention that Joseph does not.

It’s through Freeway that Beth’s daughter Grace (Elisabeth Moss of Mad Men) meets her soon-to-be husband, veterinarian Sam (Jay Ali in his feature film debut). After their sumptuous wedding celebration at Beth and Joseph’s equally sumptuous vacation home deep in the Rockies, Joseph takes Freeway for a walk in the great outdoors — without a leash. Enter a deer, and Freeway is on the run, not easily to be found. As if Beth weren’t fed up enough with her husband, she is now enraged. The remainder of the film deals with the family’s search to find Freeway and how, through that process, Beth and Joseph somewhat clumsily attempt to find each other.

Elisabeth Moss and Kevin Kline star in

Elisabeth Moss and Kevin Kline star in "Darling Companion" along with Diane Keaton — Sony Pictures Classic/Everett Collection

Kasdan’s cast of sub-characters is a delight. There’s the always-fun-to-watch Dianne Wiest playing Joseph’s oversexed sister, along with Richard Jenkins as her dorky but ever compliant boyfriend, and the local sheriff, a cantankerous Sam Shepard. But unfortunately, the subplots push the boundaries of plausibility. A psychic gets involved in the search. A commercial airline flight is rerouted and nearly crashes when a passenger spots the dog. And Beth dreams in animation about wild animals roaming the planet.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a complete sucker for dogs, and it thrills me to see one (who happens to be much cuter than The Artist’s Uggie, in my opinion) given a leading film role. This is a feel-good ensemble piece — something Kasdan is known for — but Darling Companion would have benefited from more original interplay between the people and, yes, the four-legged creatures.

Also of interest: What's the best pet for you?

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