Blu-ray Review: Deadly Dull ‘Darling Companion’ Wastes Incredible Ensemble

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CHICAGO – “Darling Companion” may be the first film consisting entirely of footage resembling the background action in an erectile dysfunction commercial. It has the score of a Campbell’s ad, the premise of a Hallmark card and the script of a self-parodying Lifetime dud. Side effects may include headaches, irritability and a guaranteed loss of interest.

What possessed Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest and Sam Shepard to sign on to this dreck? Perhaps it was the once illustrious reputation of writer/director Lawrence Kasdan, who was last seated behind the camera for 2003’s unfortunate “Dreamcatcher,” and perhaps never should have returned. Like “Larry Crowne,” Kasdan’s patronizing would-be crowd-pleaser is populated by people who are far more intelligent than the script that has entrapped them. The very notion that they assumed anyone would’ve been entertained by this simple-minded drivel is insulting. Blu-ray Rating: 1.0/5.0
Blu-ray Rating: 1.0/5.0

To be fair, none of these overqualified actors are delivering bad work—they’re just playing a losing game—with the major exception of Keaton, whose endearing neurotic persona has devolved into a shrill harpy. Beth in “Darling Companion” is her most insufferable role to date. With her children all grown up and her husband, Joseph (Kevin Kline), performing surgery at work, she’s so emotionally needy that she clings to an abandoned mutt as if it was her last salvation. She first sees the grungy, potentially rabid dog on the side of the road and desperately orders her daughter, Grace (Elisabeth Moss), to turn around. Grace protests, “No, we’re on the freeway!” And that, dear reader, is the first of several hundred times you will be forced to hear the word, “Freeway,” hollered, since that is what Beth ends up naming the wretched pooch. Once Grace locks eyes with a hunky veterinarian, they’re married within minutes, as the film gracelessly jumps one year ahead to the wedding at Beth and Joseph’s vacation home in Colorado. Soon after the festivities, the aloof Joseph loses the dog. Thus, for the rest of the picture, these Oscar nominees must stumble through the woods while shouting, “Freeway! Freeway! Freeeewaaaay!” If this weren’t torturous enough, a gypsy psychic (Ayelet Zurer) guides them on their search and offers bits of fortune-cookie wisdom. As Beth and Joseph continue their endless stream of bickering, the psychic thoughtfully observes, “They’re out of alinement.”

Darling Companion was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 28, 2012.
Darling Companion was released on Blu-ray and DVD on August 28, 2012.
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

All that bickering, and yet so little insight. In fact, the conflict between them is articulated in dialogue scraped directly from the bottom of the cliché barrel. “You Care More About The Dog Than Me!” Joseph exclaims, to which Beth retorts, “You Care More About Your Patients Than Your Family!” Finally, Wiest voices the audience’s mounting frustration with her belated line, “Do you have to be so one-dimensional?” Every single time a scene threatens to develop into something interesting, the script cuts to the next scene in a seemingly perverse effort to drain the material of any possible entertainment value. Even the hilariously inexplicable animated nightmare sequence is lazily executed, as if the filmmakers didn’t bother to animate the storyboards. In the midst of this senior matinée snoozer is Mark Duplass, who has proven to be one of the most reliably engaging and prolific actor/directors of his generation. Imagine if Duplass and his brother Jay had rented the Colorado cabin and had this cast at their disposal for a weekend. Oh, what could’ve been achieved.

“Darling Companion” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 2.35:1 aspect ratio), accompanied by English, Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks, and includes an assortment of brief featurettes. Duplass provides a succinct analysis of how the film forms a trilogy with Kasdan and Kline’s previous two collaborations, “The Big Chill” and “Grand Canyon.” Kasdan admits that his latest effort “might not be of interest to a lot of people,” and in his audio commentary, he highlights the numerous moments that were taken from his own life. Since Kasdan officiated a friend’s wedding after being ordained online, he decided to have Grace’s wedding officiated by a friend who was ordained online. The friend mentions the details of his ordainment, and then the scene promptly ends, rendering these details entirely pointless to everyone except the Kasdans. The only nuggets of pleasure to be savored on this disc is the dry wit of Kline, who thankfully accompanies Kasdan and his wife (and co-writer) Meg on the commentary track. Anyone who has heard Kline on past tracks (such as “A Prairie Home Companion,” in which he accompanied the ailing yet tirelessly feisty Robert Altman) knows just how delightful of a presence he can be, even as he experiences his own share of senior moments. Immediately after Kasdan mentions that Zurer was featured in “Angels & Demons,” Kline asks, “Wasn’t she in that ‘Da Vinci Code’ thing?”

‘Darling Companion’ is released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and stars Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Mark Duplass, Ayelet Zurer, Richard Jenkins, Dianne Wiest, Elisabeth Moss and Sam Shepard. It was written by Lawrence Kasdan and Meg Kasdan and directed by Lawrence Kasdan. It was released on August 28, 2012. It is rated PG-13. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

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