In Darling Companion, Beth (Diane Keaton) saves a bedraggled lost dog from the side of the freeway on a wintry day in Denver. Struggling with her distracted, self-involved husband Joseph (Kevin Kline) and an empty nest at home, Beth forms a special bond with the rescued animal. When Joseph loses the dog after their daughter's (Elisabeth Moss) wedding at their vacation home in the Rockies, Beth, distraught and angry with Joseph, enlists the help of the few remaining guests (Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass) and a mysterious woman (Ayelet Zurer) in a frantic search.
The title of Darling Companion hints at all the ways love touches the soul. At the center of Lawrence Kasdan's warm romantic drama is the relationship between a rescued dog and the woman who saves him, Beth (played with a lot of heart by Diane Keaton). Yet as with the best Kasdan films (The Big Chill, Grand Canyon), the couples surrounding the central one also become a focus, as things they learn cause them to grow and sometimes chafe. The cast is stellar, including Kevin Kline as Joseph ("I prefer that to Joe," he snaps), a prickly surgeon who may be taking his wonderful family for granted. Dianne Wiest plays Beth's lusty sister, Penny, whose new beau, Russell (Richard Jenkins), at first rubs the sophisticated Beth and Joseph the wrong way. Elisabeth Moss is Grace, one of Beth and Joseph's daughters, whose heart will also be touched in unexpected ways after the rescue of the dog--named Freeway for the location he was found. Well cast as a grizzled old coot of a county sheriff is Sam Shepard, who just may have a soft spot under his crusty exterior. Darling Companion is also a visual treat, shot on location around Colorado and especially in the picturesque town of Telluride. Yet despite the engaging cast (including the dog who plays Freeway), Darling Companion comes up short in the story department. The script has none of the crispness or surprise of Kasdan's better films and could have used a good 20 minutes trimmed from its length. Fans of the cast, and dog lovers, will still find Darling Companion an enjoyable experience--but it's far too light to have any lasting impact. --A.T. Hurley