Lost and Found, by David Bax
I tend to be wary of movies about rich people. Specifically, I am always sensitive to stories wherein the main character’s problems aren’t really that bad because they have enough money to get themselves out of it. See Lena Dunham’s Tiny Furniture for the perfect example of an otherwise very good film being ruined by the inevitable comfort of the people in it. Sometimes, though, as in Lawrence Kasdan’s new film, Darling Companion, the issues at hand are entirely universal. The fact that the subjects have a lot of money is simply a welcome excuse to shoot in and around a beautiful mountain vacation home.
One day, after dropping her oldest daughter and grandchild off at the airport, Beth (Diane Keaton) and her younger daughter, Grace (Elisabeth Moss), find a wounded dog by the side of the highway. Beth adopts the animal, to the dismay of her husband, a spine surgeon named Joseph (Kevin Kline). A year later, Grace and the veterinarian they met that day are getting married in the aforementioned vacation home. After the wedding, some decide to stick around for a few days. They are Beth, Joseph, Joseph’s sister, Penny (Dianne Wiest), Penny’s son, Bryan (Mark Duplass) and Penny’s boyfriend, Russell (Richard Jenkins). Add to that the property’s caretaker, Carmen (Ayelet Zurer) and we have our cast. Things get rolling when Joseph takes the dog for a walk and it runs off. Over the next three days of searching, relationships will be mended and our leads will discover new things about themselves and each other.
Kasdan has made a number of films, both good and bad, but his most well-known and loved work is 1983’s The Big Chill. Perhaps it’s that long overdue return to pastoral ensemble comedy (I don’t count 1999’s dreadful Mumford) that makes Darling Companion so successful and so welcome. He has a relaxed and easy hand with the interplay of relationships – some familial, some romantic, some old, some new – and keeps things clear with a gentle momentum.
In recent years, Diane Keaton’s performances have annoyed me. Her trademark flightiness has come across as forced and it’s almost embarrassing to watch someone her age behave like a carefree high schooler. She’s a little more restrained this time around, not to mention she’s surrounded by some pretty heavyweight talents and not Mandy Moore and whoever else was in Because I Said So. Kline and Wiest are as great as ever and Jenkins is allowed to run away with most of the film’s big laughs, which he does adroitly. Between this and The Cabin in the Woods, he’s making a good case for himself as a comedic treasure this year. Mark Duplass, a director in his own right, most recently of the charming Jeff, Who Lives at Home, more than holds his own. Only Zurer feels out of place but I imagine the fault for that lies with the screenplay. Her character is little more than the device that pairs people off to search for the dog and nurture their relationship. And when she’s not doing that, she’s serving as Bryan’s catalyst for getting his personal life in order.
Kasdan indulges in some occasional corniness. This is a movie about a lost dog, after all. Still, there are a few too many clichés. The situation where someone has to pop someone else’s arm back into its socket is older than the combined ages of the cast. Also, and despite the comeliness of the central location, scenes that take place away from it, such as shots of Grace on her honeymoon, can look distractingly cheap.
Aesthetic glamour is not what this film is about, though. In intentionally broad terms, Darling Companion is a film about people. There are the ways they find joy in one another and there are the ways they frustrate one another. A decent film that looks at such subjects in earnest is one worth watching, even if it is about a bunch of rich people.