Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lawrence Kasdan: Darling Companion

Diane Keaton, Darling Companion, Sony Pictures Classics, 2012.

American master Lawrence Kasdan returns to screens triumphant with his wistful, charming new picture, Darling Companion. In essence a modern American re-envisioning of Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, Kasdan cleverly pairs off his lamenting lovers, as they search for one couple's lost dog named Freeway. Hopes, fears, and dreams are projected onto the missing pooch by our mercurial protagonists. Kasdan and his co-writer, Meg Kasdan, are deft at dissecting traditional, even typical rom-com situations, and imbuing their characters with a complexity and humor which are rich and enveloping.

Kasdan's strength has always been primarily as a writer. His fascination with fusing old-school genre with new-school characterization has resulted in some of the best films of the 80s and 90s . . . . Body Heat, The Big Chill, Silverado, The Accidental Tourist, and Grand Canyon all soared and shattered audience expectation. Darling Companion does a little more of the same.

Instilling what appears to be a conventional golden years rom-com with a curious spirit and nuance, Kasdan & co. perform a rare feat; the philosophical comedy. Kevin Kline and especially Diane Keaton are afforded rare (as of late) chances to shine as an aging upper class couple; the vagaries of their daily lives are repeatedly illuminated by the machinations of their desires. Richard Jenkins and Diane Wiest are both utterly delightful as Kline's daffy sister and her sleazy but heartened new beau. Mark Duplass, as Wiest's nebbishy son, and Ayelet Zurer, as Keaton and Kline's psychic housekeeper, also afford much pleasure.

Dp Michael McDonough captures all of the magic of the changing seasons in the Colorado mountains; composer James Newton Howard delivers a standardly uniform, playful score. The plot device of the housekeeper (Zurer)'s visions leading them on a wild goose chase after the dog, works wonderfully; it recalls Woody Allen at his most mirthful (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion). The ending is ambivalent and bizarre; one sequence in particular, a soulful exchange between husband and wife, gives Keaton the chance to shine like she has not in some time,

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