The Review at a Glance: (max score: 5 )
Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )
Studio and Year: Sony Classic Pictures - 2012
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 104 minutes
Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC (MPEG-4)
Video Aspect: 2.35:1
Audio Format(s): English/Portuguese DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, Spanish, Portuguese
Starring: Diane Keaton, Kevin Kline, Richard Jenkins, Mark Duplass, Sam Shepard, Dianne Wiest, Elisabeth Moss, Ayelet Zurer
Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan
Music by: James Newton Howard
Written by: Meg & Lawrence Kasdan
Region Code: A
Blu-ray Disc release Date: August 28, 2012
In DARLING COMPANION, Beth (Diane Keaton) saves a bedraggled lost dog from the side of the freeway on a wintry day in Denver. Struggling with her distracted, self-involved husband Joseph (Kevin Kline) and an empty nest at home, Beth forms a special bond with the rescued animal. When Joseph loses the dog after a wedding at their vacation home in the Rockies, the distraught Beth enlists the help of the few remaining guests and a mysterious young woman (Ayelet Zurer) in a frantic search. Each member of the search party is affected by the adventure, which takes them in unexpected directions – comic, harrowing, sometimes deeply emotional and ultimately towards love.
I am a fan of Lawrence Kasdan’s work both at the typewriter and behind the camera. In the sprit of The Big Chill and Grand Canyon Darling Companion is a generational film inspired by a real experience he and his wife Meg (who co-wrote this film) had when their adopted dog was lost for three weeks. The story is about a couple in their early sixties whose thirty year marriage has lost its way. Joseph and Beth have become disconnected for various reasons. For Joseph his work as a surgeon takes precedence while Beth struggles to fill the void that was once her marriage/raising their two daughters.
Beth finds a lost, starved and needy dog alongside the freeway and winds up adopting him. “Freeway” becomes Beth’s constant companion and provides her with a sense of purpose and supplemental love. While vacationing in the mountains with family/friends Joseph takes Freeway for a walk and loses him while distracted by one of his many work related phone calls. Needless to say Beth isn’t happy and immediately enlists the aid of everyone including their live in maid/caretaker Carmen to search for him. What begins as a search for a lost pet becomes something much more as personal discoveries are made, relationships are redefined and a couple unwittingly rekindles the embers of a smoldering marriage.
Darling companion isn’t as effectively resonating a drama as Kasdan’s better films that center around similar subject matter. It suffers from an overwritten script and drowsy pacing. It’s tough to root for Joseph and Beth because little background is provided on their relationship pre Freeway. While their problems are understandable there is no correlation to happier times as all we see is what’s left now which is pretty negative. The secondary characters and their relationships are similarly undefined and shallow. I felt more connected to Freeway especially since there is an empathic bond associated with his beginnings in the story. Of course he isn’t around too long before getting lost.
Luckily all is not lost. The cast is strong, with Diane Keaton and Kasdan favorite, Kevin Kline, leading the way. Overwritten or not some of the biting dialogue and situational humor is fun to watch especially delivered from the likes of Kline and the always reliable Richard Jenkins. I found the character of Carmen to not only be annoying but her contribution to the storyline bordered on superfluous. Oh well, watching Ayelet Zurer portray Carmen certainly made her a bit more tolerable. In the end Darling companion is passable. I appreciated it for what it is but it doesn’t hold up well against films like Grand Canyon and The Big Chill.
The rating is for some sexual content including references and language.
AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100 / EXCELLENT = 83-91 / GOOD = 74-82 / AVERAGE = 65-73 / BELOW AVERAGE = under 65
**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Low frequency extension:
- Surround Sound presentation:
- Dialogue Reproduction:
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
- Black level/Shadow detail:
- Color reproduction:
Darling companion comes to Blu-ray Disc from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 31 Mbps and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound that has an average bitrate of 3.1 Mbps.
Shot digitally this film looks superb on Blu-ray Disc and features glossy high definition video quality that exhibits high level detail, razor sharpness and exquisite definition that brings out lifelike textures captured by the camera’s lens. Dimensional perspective has a near infinite appeal that can be visually stimulating. Close ups are noticeably refined and revealing of the subtlest details within facial features and objects within the frame. The only exception to this is the obvious post production smoothing done to Diane Keaton’s facial features which are clearly in an effort to minimize noticeable aging lines etc. Mid level camera pans are equally enriching and offer excellent depth and dimension. Colors are appreciably delineated with natural rendering and punchy primaries that stand out among the remaining spectrum of secondary hues. Fleshtones are rendered with vivid tonality and discerning complexional depiction. Contrast is boldly applied without overstatement as it enlivens colors and drives whites with washing away detail. Blacks are gradational and fairly deep which helps them pop during sequences containing a mix of light and dark elements. Detail in uneven light and darkened environments reveal visible shapes and structure in backgrounds. This is a pristine video presentation that looks great.
The lossless DTS-HD MA soundtrack has excellent dynamic range, detail rich clarity and makes effective use of the surround platform in support of the film’s thematic elements. James Newton Howard’s music score, coupled along with well integrated atmospheric sound effects, plays an intricate role in this presentation. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is notable. During the driving rainstorm in the sequence where Joseph and Beth get lost in the woods the low frequency effects channel works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the palpably rich bass and dynamic impact associated with the “sounds” of rain and thunder. As good as that scene sounds it pales next to Beth’s dream sequence which is fully enveloping and literally jarred me out of my chair. Dialogue is firmly planted in the center channel and clearly renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction and balance within the front soundstage. I thoroughly enjoyed this audio presentation and found that it accentuated the feeling of “being there” while complimenting the film’s recorded elements.
- Audio commentary with Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan, Kevin Kline
- (HD) Darling companion: Behind the scenes – 5 minute featurette
- (HD) Behind the scenes: Lawrence Kasdan – 5 minute featurette
- (HD) Finding Freeway: Dog people – 3 minute featurette
- (HD) On the Red Carpet: New York premiere – 3 minutes
- (HD) Theatrical trailer
Darling companion is a generational dramedy that exposes about the interpersonal relationships of the people surrounding a lost dog and how during the search for him they get a chance to reexamine their perspectives in order to discover what’s really important. From the minds (and real experience) of co-writers Meg and Lawrence Kasdan I found it to be mildly entertaining but not as effectively resonating as director Lawrence Kasdan’s better works. It comes to Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment in a technically strong offering that features impressive audio/video quality and a fair supplemental package that takes a brief look behind the scenes at the production. This doesn’t qualify as a blind buy but if you enjoy Kasdan’s films it’s easily worth a rental.
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