Jon and Wendy Savage are two siblings who have spent their adult years trying to recover from the abuse of their abusive father, Lenny Savage. Suddenly, a call comes in that his girlfriend has died, he cannot care for himself with his dementia and her family is dumping him on his children. Despite the fact Jon and Wendy have not spoken to Lenny for twenty years and he is even more loathsome than ever, the Savage siblings feel obliged to take care of him. Now together, brother and sister must come to terms with the new and painful responsibilities with their father now affecting their lives even as they struggle with their own personal demons Lenny helped create. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Savages (2007) was written and directed by Tamara Jenkins. Jenkins gets everything right in this film about three family members who barely connect with each other. Laura Linney plays Wendy Savage--a NYC playwright who works as a temp and waits for an artistic breakthrough. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays her brother Jon, who teaches drama at a college in Buffalo. Although the siblings aren't particularly hostile towards each other, they clearly don't have a close or affectionate relationship.
A health crisis makes it necessary for the two to travel to Sun City, Arizona, to care for their father. We only see Lenny Savage as an old man with dementia. He's not exactly a warm and loving person as the film opens. Moreover, we learn that he wasn't a great parent before the dementia, either. Both his son and his daughter don't keep in touch with him, nor he with them. Now they have to deal with a crisis that forces them together.
Hoffman and Linney are two of he finest actors on the screen today, and, when they play off against each other, the result is movie magic. Everything rings true--their love/hate relationship, their professional jealousy, and their disapproval of each other's love life. They aren't exactly the two people best suited to make life and death decisions about their father, but that's the reality they face, and they have to deal with it as best they can.
I've written almost 200 reviews for IMDb, and I've never even considered mentioning the casting director. This review is the exception. My compliments to Jeanne McCarthy, who has filled this movie with an extraordinary set of actors in small roles. Everyone Wendy and Jon meet looks right for the role--nurses, psychologists, administrators, aides, students, etc., etc. It would be worth seeing the movie again just to watch the actors who aren't stars.
There's also an excellent supporting actor. Peter Friedman plays Larry, the married man with whom Wendy is having an affair. Their scene in a motel room is short but both powerful and poignant. (Actually, every scene in which Linney appears is powerful and poignant, but Friedman holds his own in this one.)
We saw the movie in a theater, but an intimate film of this type should do well on DVD. Incidentally, most of the movie takes place in Buffalo, New York, and director Jenkins obviously has a real feel for the city and its people.
This may be the best independent film of 2007. Don't miss it!
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