Frozen as always in their favourite pose – gaze fixed fondly on navel –Lawrence Kasdan's baby boomers just won't go away. The Big Chill tracked them in their 30s, angsting about sex and kids and careers while pretending to mourn a friend's suicide.
A decade later, they upped the crisis to mid-life status in Grand Canyon, whining that the “world doesn't make sense any more.” Now, in Darling Companion, the children of the Sixties have reached their 60s, so let's just eavesdrop on what a lifetime of navel-gazing has taught them:
“It's a jolt finding ourselves like this.”
Fuelled by such high-octane profundities, the film sputters and stalls and winds up behaving like the worst sort of oldster – passing gas and pretending to be deep.
Of course, the boomers are as rich and privileged as ever. Joseph (Kevin Kline) is a self-involved doctor. This leaves his wife Beth (Diane Keaton) to be self-involved about his self-involvement. Early on, she and her unmarried daughter happen upon a lost dog at the side of the freeway, then transport the bedraggled animal to the vet. Cut to a year later, when the daughter is betrothed to the vet and Beth is besotted with the dog who, unlike her cellphone-wielding hubby, is both darling and companionable. And what does one name a dog found by the freeway? Yo Freeway.
The wedding is held at the family's vacation house in the Colorado Rockies, which gives Kasdan the perfect excuse to do what he's so fond of doing: Gather the clan. There's Joseph's divorced sister Penny (Dianne Wiest), with her bad knee and her uber-affable boyfriend Russell (Richard Jenkins). There's the grizzled local sheriff (Sam Shepard), with his kidney stone and his own profound contention that “getting old really sucks.”
Suiting up for the not-yet-geriatric team is nephew Bryan, also a doctor, and the exotic housekeeper Carmen, a Gypsy who claims to possess a “third eye.”
A good thing too, since that eye comes in handy when the plot arrives at its one and only complication: The mutt gets lost in the woods. Naturally, this disaster prompts a search party given to plentiful cries of “Freeway come home.”
When, under Carmen's visionary direction, the party splits up to expand the search, the distraught Beth and a reluctant Joseph get as lost as the dog they're seeking. Being old, he falls down and separates his shoulder. Being compassionate about wounded critters, she pops the wayward bone back into place, and their wayward marriage along with it.
At this point, we may be forgiven for harbouring a niggling concern that every last one of these characters, in their communal effort to find the dog, will find themselves. But surely Kasdan wouldn't stoop to that brand of abject sentimentality, would he? Then again, for a man getting on in years himself, stooping may now be his natural posture.
So we wait, worried that our worst fears might prove true. If so, a veteran cast of talented actors, boomers all, would find nothing but their talents wasted. And that would send a mixed message indeed. The text says one thing: The Me Generation is alive and well and, save for the odd ache or kidney stone, whole in spirit and happy at last. But the unintended subtext says something entirely different: The same generation is subsisting on a diet of pure treacle.
Either way, better to call this thing The Big Pill, ’cause it's awfully hard to swallow.
- Directed and written by Lawrence Kasdan
- Starring Kevin Kline, Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest
- Classification: PG
- 1.5 stars
LAWRENCE KASDAN'S BABY-BOOMERS: A PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
The Big Chill (1983)
State: South Carolina
State of development: Boomers in their 30s
State of mind: They're lamenting lost ideals and searching for themselves
Status of Kevin Kline's character: a rich entrepreneur, conservative-leaning
State of his libido: He's contemplating having altruistic sex with a woman not his wife.
Sample dialogue: “Everyone does everything just to get laid.”
Grand Canyon (1993)
State of development: Boomers in their 40s
State of mind: They're still lamenting lost ideals and still searching for themselves
Status of Kevin Kline's character: a rich lawyer, liberal-leaning
State of his libido: He's contemplating having hedonistic sex with a woman not his wife
Sample dialogue: “Everything seems so close together, the good and the bad things in the world.”
Darling Companion (2012)
State of development: Boomers in their 60s
State of mind: They're lamenting lost knee joints and searching for a runaway dog.
Status of Kevin Kline's character: a rich doctor, leaning to the right but only after separating his shoulder.
State of his libido: He's neither contemplating nor having sex with anyone, let alone his wife.
Sample dialogue: “Getting old really sucks.”