Last night was Opening Night at the Santa Barbara Film Festival, an annual 10-day event that I really look forward to. What could be bad about movies, movies and more movies, many of them making their worldwide debuts right here in my hometown?
This year’s kick-off film was the worldwide debut of “Darling Companion,” the latest from director Lawrence Kasdan (“Body Heat,” “The Big Chill,” “Grand Canyon”) starring Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Diane Wiest, Richard Jenkins and Sam Shepard. Michael and I headed over to the historic, 2,000-seat Arlington Theater as the crowds gathered to watch celebrities arrive on the red carpet.
Once inside, Kasdan took the stage, thanked us for coming and introduced those who were instrumental in making the film – from his wife and co-screenwriter to his producers to his stars, including Keaton and Kline, who got a huge response from the crowd. I was totally stoked to see the movie, not only because I loved Kasdan’s previous movies and absolutely adore Diane Keaton, but because the story was about a married couple in their 60s having sort of a mid-life crisis. Set against the scenic beauty of the Colorado mountains, the story finds Keaton’s character depressed about the fact that her two daughters are leaving the nest and that her husband (Kline) is a self-involved surgeon who cares more about his patients than his family. Enter a cute dog she finds along the freeway, brings home and becomes attached to. When the couple takes the dog, which Keaton has named “Freeway,” to their summer vacation home for a weekend and Kline, busy on his cell phone, lets him run away during a walk, trouble ensues.
God, how I wanted to love this movie. But it’s so slight and full of trite dialogue and the actors really aren’t given much to do – they play symbols of people, not real people. And then there’s the sappiness factor. While Keaton and Kline get lost searching for the dog, they “rediscover” how much they love each other. Yeah, sure. Like putting back her husband’s dislocated shoulder is really going to fix all their problems. Please.
And the dog? He isn’t even in the movie much, since it’s about searching for him after he goes missing.
I loved last year’s Opening Night film, “Sarah’s Key,” but this year’s landed with a thud. Sadly.