Diane Keaton in Lawrence Kasdan's "Darling Companion"
Sony Pictures Classics Diane Keaton in Lawrence Kasdan's "Darling Companion"

Lawrence Kasdan's return to director's chair after eight years, "Darling Companion," starring Diane Keaton and Kevin Kline, will open the Santa Barbara Film Festival on January 26. (Unhappily, many of us will still be at Sundance.) Sony Pictures Classics will release the marital comedy --which also stars Dianne Wiest, Richard Jenkins, Sam Shepard, Mark Duplass, Elisabeth Moss, and Ayelet Zurer--in 2012. Werc Werk Works, Likely Story and Kasdan Pictures produced the $5 million indie.

In "Darling Companion," written by Lawrence and Meg Kasdan, Keaton plays a Denver woman struggling with an empty nest who bonds with a lost dog she saves from the side of the road. When her distracted husband (Kline) loses the dog after a wedding at their vacation cottage in the Rockies, Beth and some stragglers conduct a search. Kasdan has admitted that the cast got "paid nothing." (More of my interview with him here.)

SBIFF is also mounting a Kasdan retrospective including "Body Heat" (1981), "The Big Chill" (1983), and "Grand Canyon" (1991)--all are must-sees.