After his fast-track start scripting Episode V of STAR WARS/’80 and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK/’81, Lawrence Kasdan moved to writing/directing his own ensemble pieces, like the 30-Something/post-college reunion BIG CHILL/’83, one of those iconic pics no one gives a shit about. Mixed success followed as he steered the same basic model thru various genres, returning to the less structured format of CHILL for GRAND CANYON/’91 and now DARLING COMPANION/’12, his first work in a decade and shallower than ever. Nothing wrong with the basic idea, a late middle-aged couple adopt a rescued dog shortly before their last kid marries. SHE really wants it; HE not so much. But when the dog runs off after the big wedding, three remaining couples are sorely tested as they hunt for the missing pooch, pulled apart by magnified petty grievances, then drawn closer than ever by common ties & a common cause. The problem, as always from this source, is that Kasdan has big truths he wants to impart, but little to say. And he populates his work with nearly abstract clichés instead of living characters. Hell, even Kasdan must know that finding Fido won’t change anything . . . except for Fido.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Recently, the French have been churning out great (if difficult) family relationship pics. Smart, touching, funny, infuriating, sexy, annoying and rarely too cute. (Though the hormonally-charged ingenues are a bit much.) Olivier Assayas’s L’HEURE D’ÉTÉ/SUMMER HOURS/’08 is a particularly good one.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: With a sobering gross under a million, COMPANION’s commercial dismissal may have jolted Kasdan out of his long-term sulk/funk and led him back-to-the-future taking a co-writing gig (with J.J. Abrams) on the next STAR WARS.