Darling Companion [Blu-ray]
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Many will look at the box for this release and think it is nothing more than another animal picture. That does set the stage for this tale but it isn't the main ingredient. Diane Keaton plays Beth, the mother of one daughter Ellie (Lindsay Sloane) who's moved her family to New York and another Grace (Elisabeth Moss) who's in school. After dropping Ellie off at the airport while driving home, Beth tells Grace to stop the car on the freeway. There, they find a wounded and lost dog that they take home. While Beth's husband Joseph (Kevin Kline) insists the dog isn't staying time passes and it's a year later.
While the family has grown accustomed to the dog, now named Freeway, a new change is about to kick in. Grace is about to marry the veterinarian they took the dog to when they first found him. The wedding is in the family vacation home on Colorado and goes smoothly. New characters are introduced including Joseph's sister Penny (Dianne Wiest) and her new boyfriend Russell (Richard Jenkins) and housekeeper Carmen (Ayelet Zurer). They are the last remaining guests for the night after the wedding as well as Penny's son and Joseph's fellow back surgeon Bryan (Mark Duplas).
With the intent of staying just a few days it all changes when during Joseph loses Freeway while taking him for a walk. Having not taken along the dog's whistle and losing him while talking on his cell phone (something he does constantly), Beth blames him for the loss of the dog which has taken on an extreme amount of importance to her over the past year. Joseph thinks she's over reacting to the dog's loss and that he will come home. Beth thinks Joseph is unfeeling and just wants to ignore his personal responsibilities.
All hands join in in the search for Freeway. Things get a bit more interesting when Carmen reveals she is of gypsy descent and has the ability to "see things". Following the clues she offers them, each member of the group is paired off and the search goes forward. Along the way each of these characters gets to know the other a little better. Bryan gets to know Russell a bit more as he tries to decide if the man is just after his mother's pension in hopes of building a pub. Bryan and Carmen get close as well. Penny and Russell show that theirs is perhaps the closest relationship in the group. And Beth and Joseph are forced to look back at the choices they've made through the years and to discover that love that they once shared long ago. Has it died or was it simply misplaced over the years?
Kasdan has always done a great job with ensemble pieces like this. Both THE BIG CHILL and GRAND CANYON are works that bring together a cast of characters and have them intertwine throughout the story being told, coming together and moving apart, discovering who they really are and who the others around them are and finally realizing the things that are truly important to each of them.
Kids of the MTV generation that want answers and want them in five minutes will have a difficult time with this movie. There are no neat and tidy summations in the first 5 minutes or within the first hour of the film. Instead we watch the characters mingle back and forth until the end of the film when the search for Freeway ends either in his loss or discovery. But then to tell you what happens would be to create the worst spoiler ever.
Well made and well thought out, this film entertains from start to finish. And above all is some of the best acting around. Keaton remains a fantastic actress and looks amazing. Kline in his sixth film with Kasdan turns in an effortless performance. And the rest of the cast falls in line with these two leads to offer totally believable characters.
This is not an action film, a horror film or a teen comedy. This is a movie about real people with real problems who find themselves after having tucked away emotions and ideas for some period of time. As the characters reveal themselves so does the story. It's nice to see a film take the time to speak rather than rush everything.
Beth Winter (Diane Keaton) and her daughter Grace discover a wounded dog along the freeway and quickly stop getting it help. After learning that the Animal Control Dept. would only "put him down", the two women are upset and take him on to the vet. Of course, Beth does end up taking the 7 yr old dog home and naming him "Freeway" immediately ... At first, her husband, Joseph (Kevin Kline), balks at the idea then slowly complies realizing his wife's obvious attachment.
"The Thing Called Love" (Bonnie Raitt) plays out from the soundtrack as the family starts to fall in love with Freeway and meshes with their new pet. The movie quickly skips ahead one year to the couple's vacation home in Colorado. Their daughter marries the vet that got Freeway back into shape and a whole cast of interesting characters enters the scene. The scenery in Colorado is gorgeous, lush, and colorful. Photography (Michael McDonough) of this beautiful area could not be better represented. Everything to the slightest detail comes alive and breathes life into the couples that stay behind at their home after the wedding day.
Joseph's sister, Penny (Dianne Wiest), brings along her new love interest, Russell (Richard Jenkins). Along with them is her son Bryan (Mark Duplass), a fellow surgeon along with Joseph. A very intuitive person added to the cast is the insightful caretaker of the vacation home, Carmen (Ayelet Zurer - "Hide Away"). Shortly after everyone is there, Joseph unintentionally loses Freeway while taking him out on a walk. The entire group gets together, in many ways, and outsources to find the dog. The sheriff (Sam Shepard) of the town is also sought out to help and adds his own regional flavor to the search party.
This is a simple set up for this plot, as the movie does stay relatively uncomplicated and that is exactly why I liked it so well. There are several other interests like the couple's now 'empty-nest' marriage which has become too ordinary for them. It is obvious that Beth and Joseph love each other very much after all these years and need a new connection for themselves as a couple. Some focus is unto the subplots if you will, although the major portion of the movie is concentrated on finding this dog and a soul seeking quest to return him home. Beth is so emotionally tied to Freeway and is heartbroken by him being lost. Their relationship represents so many things about her life in a much fuller sense.
The people all taking stake in getting Freeway returned are also taking their own personal journeys at this time in their lives. Full of self-reflection, this is a highly emotional story in parts. One that doesn't beg its own attention and also any animal lover would appreciate this lovely story. Done with nothing offensive; I think that this would make an age-appropriate 'family movie' ... Personally, I loved it!