Darling Companion

PG-13 / 103mins / Comedy / April 20, 2012 (Limited)
Darling Companion

On the side of a busy freeway, a woman finds the love, devotion, commitment, and courage she needs – all wrapped up in a bloodied stray dog who becomes her “darling companion.” When the beloved canine goes missing, a shaggy-dog search adventure plays out, drawing together friends and family and rekindling a lifelong love.

BETH (Diane Keaton) and JOSEPH WINTER (Kevin Kline) are a long-married couple living comfortably in the Denver suburbs. Joseph, a successful, busy surgeon, is regarded by his wife as pompous and self-involved, while Beth, an empty-nester now that their daughters are grown, is considered high-strung and overly-emotional by her husband. While they’re sometimes testy with each other, they’re united in pride and pleasure in their family.

One wintry day, driving with daughter GRACE (Elisabeth Moss), Beth spots something on the side of the freeway and insists they pull over. Nestled in the roadside shrubbery is a dog – frightened, banged-up, but clear-eyed and responsive. With uncharacteristic boldness, the women coax and carry the injured stray to their car and take him to a vet. Not only is the dog saved, but he brings good fortune in the bargain: the handsome young vet, SAM (Jay Ali) locks eyes with Grace, and a romantic spark is kindled.

Before long the dog, aptly named Freeway, is a beloved family member. A year passes, and Grace and Sam are engaged to marry. The festive wedding is held at the family’s lodge-style country cabin in the High Rockies. Once newlyweds and guests depart, Joseph and Beth are left to relax with a few stragglers: Joseph’s sister PENNY (Dianne Wiest) and her new beau RUSSELL (Richard Jenkins); Penny’s son BRYAN (Mark Duplass), who is also a surgeon in medical practice with his uncle Joseph; and the cabin’s caretaker CARMEN (Ayelet Zurer), whose exotic beauty and accent lend her an alluring air of mystery. Beth and Joseph are unimpressed with the artlessly friendly Russell, worrying that Penny is being seduced by an opportunistic loser. Bryan, equally wary of Russell, becomes distracted by the lovely Carmen.

This cozy house party is thrown into crisis mode when Freeway, out for a woodland ramble with Joseph, bounds away after a deer. Joseph is relatively nonchalant about Freeway’s disappearance – he’s a dog, he’ll find his way home – but Beth immediately launches a full-scale, all-hands search party that keeps up far into the night. The whole town goes on alert via radio announcements and reward flyers; they even summon the local SHERIFF (Sam Shepard) on his day off. A second day goes by with no sign of Freeway.

Beth is devastated, furious at Joseph, and inconsolable with worry that Freeway has perished. But Carmen assures them that Freeway lives, confiding that she has a gift for finding things, passed down from her mother’s Roma forebears. With a real-life Gypsy psychic in their midst, the search party is re-energized, putting skepticism aside to follow Carmen’s “third eye” and its vexingly vague insights – something about a yellow house, or maybe a blue house, or maybe a red-haired woman...

As Penny pairs off with Carmen on the search, and Bryan pairs off with Russell, bonds of friendship strengthen among them. But Freeway remains lost, and Beth and Joseph get lost too; hours hiking and bickering along rugged mountain trails turn dark, stormy, and treacherous.

When Joseph tumbles down a steep hillside and dislocates his shoulder, Beth rescues him, and their misadventure draws them closer. Even as they give up hope of ever seeing Freeway again, they rediscover their enduring love and commitment.

On the commuter plane taking them back to civilization, Beth glances out the window and is convinced she sees Freeway in a meadow below. She’s so certain that Joseph fakes a health crisis to get the plane turned around. Back on the ground, they race to the meadow. With husband, family, and friends loyally accompanying her, Beth calls and whistles to Freeway one last time – and her canine companion runs to her for a joyful reunion.

"Darling Companion" stars Ayelet Zurer, Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest, Elisabeth Moss, Kevin Kline, Mark Duplass, Richard Jenkins, and Sam Shepard.

Directed by Lawrence Kasdan.
Written by Lawrence Kasdan and Meg Kasdan.
Produced by Anthony Bregman and Elizabeth Redleaf.
Production company/distributor: Sony Pictures Classics.

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