Sometimes and director Lawrence Kasdan's loose, laconic comedy "Darling Companion" is one of those times it's fun to see movie stars in the same way we see old friends.
When we see Kevin Kline and Diane Keaton playing an established married couple, Joseph and Beth Winters, we buy into it not because we've ever seen them together before (we haven't; this is their first screen pairing), but because we know their onscreen personae over the years and our minds can play cinematic matchmaker and know intuitively that they would pair up well. Same goes for the great character actors Dianne Wiest, who plays Joseph's New Age-y sister Penny, and Richard Jenkins, who plays Penny's recently acquired boyfriend, Russell.
Joseph and Beth are in a marriage slowly drifting. Joseph's a talented surgeon who never has time for Beth, who is feeling the empty nest left behind by their daughters, Grace (Elisabeth Moss) and Ellie (Lindsay Sloane). On the drive from the airport, after dropping Ellie and her baby off, Beth and Grace find a dog abandoned in the highway median. They take him to a nice vet, Sam (Jay Ali), and soon Beth is adopting the mutt, naming him Freeway.
Freeway, over Joseph's initial objections, becomes a fixture in the Winters house. He becomes Beth's constant companion and plays a supporting role in Grace and Sam's romance.
Fast-forward a year, to the wedding of Grace and Sam at the Winters family's Colorado vacation home. After the wedding, and after most of the guests leave, Joseph is out walking Freeway when the dog goes missing in the woods. A frantic search begins, with Joseph and Beth going in one direction, and Russell teaming up with Bryan (Mark Duplass) Joseph's junior colleague and Penny's son. The search is guided by the Winterses' clairvoyant housekeeper, Carmen (Ayelet Zurer), to whom Bryan finds himself attracted.
During the search, the strains of the Winterses' marriage come out with conversations about resentments and loneliness, things that the gorgeous mountain scenery and the faux-rustic charms of their luxury cabin can't fix. (Colorado tourism officials will feel flattered at the footage Kasdan shot even though it was all filmed in Utah, primarily around American Fork, Park City and the Sundance resort.)
Kasdan and his wife, Meg, co-wrote "Darling Companion," inspired by their own canine experiences. Their narrative stumbles a few times, particularly in the contrivance of Carmen's Gypsy visions, but those pitfalls are outweighed by characters' easygoing familiarity. The Kasdans ensure that, from the first frame, we already know these characters, because through universal life experiences and these actors' long track records we already do.
Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline are nicely paired as a married couple drifting apart in this comedy-drama, filmed in Utah.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens Friday, May 25.
Rating • PG-13 for some sexual content including references, and language
Running time • 103 minutes.