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To put it simply, "The Savages" is the most human look at life I've
seen in theaters this year. It's incredibly easy to relate to if you
have ever ever seen some relative or family friend of yours get old and
then forget who you are due to some sort of elder person's disease. It
features three of the year's finest performances from Laura Linney,
Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Phillip Brosco, all of whom radiate on the
screen as real, ordinary but complex, people. Linney and Hoffman play
brother and sister, two writers who have an argumentative but loving
way of getting along. Brosco plays their father, who has done something
really, well, "dirty," and has drawn the attention of the family that
had been caring for him, who no longer wish to do so.
From there, Linney and Hoffman's characters meet up with the father whom they haven't seen in years, and who was never very compassionate towards them. However, their father has dementia, and slowly begins to forget who they are. Instead of their main concern being whether or not he's kind to them, the kids are afraid they won't be able to communicate with him at all. The way Tamara Jenkins handles this, from both the perspective of the kids and the perspective of the father, is brilliant. She really understands the way family relations work, as her film is spot-on in that aspect.
The three performances are all great for their own reasons. Linney plays a woman who is really confused with her life: she's having an affair with a married man who's ten years older than her, she lies to everyone she knows about things that aren't worth it, and she is having a lot of trouble getting produced as a writer. Hoffman, her older brother, has a really relaxed humanistic side to him, always countering Linney's loud worrisome actions with a calm, mind-processing technique. The chemistry between this brother-sister duo - probably the only opposite-sex-adult-aged-duo that doesn't have any romantic elements (for obvious reasons) - is one of the most realistic works of chemistry you'll find in a theater this year. Throw in Phillip Brosco - who absolutely conquers the dementia that his character has (my aunt has dementia, so I see her all the time and know that his face and way of talking and mannerisms are all spot on) - and you've got three characters who are so strong alone that they're enough reason to see this movie, funny-touching script and story aside.
While all three performances were incredible, I'd have to say that my favorite performance came from Hoffman. Linney played the confused-wreck card very well, but it's not like she's the first actress to confront or conquer that territory. Brosco was astoundingly realistic as a man with dementia, but his role doesn't carry very far beyond that. Hoffman's performance, while not "loud" in any way, is simply the best portrayal of an ordinary human being I've seen in years, if that makes any sense. Everything, from the way he reacts to what people say, to the way he talks, to the way he expresses emotion when he's feeling it - all of it is executed so well that I can't believe that he was actually acting.
The ending of the film is very humane. It doesn't have any major twists or bangs, but it doesn't end on a nothing-note either. It teaches us that the lessons we learn from one experience can help us deal with the next, and it's the many small messages like this and the very life-like feel of the film's craft that make it one of the most special films I had the experience of seeing at a theater this year.
If you look for honesty portrayed in film, you can't do much better than The Savages. This is an example of the type of film that rarely sees the light of day, simply because it refuses to compromise. Despite it's grim subject matter, there is plenty of humor in this film, which mainly arises from the absurdity of situations that feel so genuinely familiar. All the performances across the board are fantastic, and Ms. Jenkins was miraculously able to get funding for a film that didn't include the casting of a single "pretty young thing". Every single person in the the film genuinely looks like the real article (note: for equally impressive casting, check out Sarah Polly's "Away From Her".) There are numerous places where this film could've taken a turn into typical Hollywood schmaltz and portrayed situations in a less-than-honest way, but it's director and actors refused to go there. Thank goodness they didn't.
This film, along with "Away from Her" are the best elder-films I've
seen all year (2007).
There is an honesty to the movie about a brother and sister relationship that is genuine and heart warming. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Jon, the professor) and Laura Linney (as Wendy, aspiring playwright)are perfectly cast in the roles of the sister and brother who have to deal with their obnoxious, foul-mouthed elderly father, Lenny, played by Philip Bosco in a riveting performance.
Their childhoods have been difficult, abuse is hinted at along with a runaway mother. They are now confronted with the care and responsibility of their father who has been deemed incompetent (and penniless). The effects of their childhood on these now adult children is played out well. They are incapable of intimacy with potential partners and even with each other.
How they slowly gain an understanding of themselves and each other is an ongoing major thread of the movie and is beautifully depicted. A one of a kind sibling movie. 9 out of 10. Recommended.
"The Savages" has been terribly mismarketed. I'm sure plenty of people
who went to watch it having seen only the previews, thought it was a
comedy, and were disappointed. If anything, this is a "dramedy" - it
will make you smile a few times, but never laugh out loud. But that's
not a bad thing, the other way around.
This is a story about two siblings, Wendy (Laura Linney, who earned a surprise - and much deserved - Oscar nomination for this performance) and Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who have to take care of their ailing, estranged father, Lenny (Philip Bosco). Fathers and kids relationships have been discussed in tons of movies, but Tamara Jenkins (real life wife of Jim Taylor, co-author of Alexander Payne's scripts - they both produced this movie, by the way) managed to create something fresh and beautiful in its own simplicity (and, at the same time, so complex and painfully real, for all of those who've had difficult family relationships - and who hasn't?). "The Savages" reminds me of Noah Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale", also starring Laura Linney - but with a little less humor, and perhaps even more heart. Hoffman and Bosco are also great, as usual. Jenkins proves that she's a very sensitive writer/director, and I'm excited to check whatever she does next. I'm rooting for either her or Diablo Cody ("Juno") to win the Oscar for best original screenplay next month (coincidentally, both movies have The Velvet Underground's "I'm Sticking With You" in the soundtrack). 10/10.
I would say this is one of the most underrated movies of 2007.This movie has it all,acting,directing,comedy,true life etc.So many of us baby boomers can really identify with this movie and what the characters are going through.I had the opportunity of seeing this movie at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2007,and when the tickets went on sale to the public for the two showings they were both sold out within 30 minutes.This is a must see movie that just doesn't get the ravings that so many other movies are getting.Now that it has had two nominations for this year's Academy Awards let's hope that it gets its rightful recognition.
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
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!
I saw this at an early screening last night in LA, with Philip
Seymour-Hoffman in attendance. It is a first-rate movie. The acting is
impeccable, the story is subtle and engaging, the camera work is
lifelike and natural.
The most impressive part of the movie for me was it's attention to detail. It is a story about three people's lives as they intersect, and while the film spotlights the interactions that ensue, it is not at the expense of other stories that are occurring in the background.
I loved it. And while the subject matter can be emotional, it has a very smart humor as well.
I saw this last night at the Sedona Film Festival. This is a great
movie. Although it may be a depressing subject, no one can deny that it
is real life. It's one of those odd comforting type movies in that it
allows the viewer to relate on a personal level.
The acting is superb. Hoffman and Linny draw you right into their lonely worlds. They deliver a poignant realistic view of adult life after being abandoned as a child. They really compliment each other. I would be happy to see some nominations in the future for this one. I also hope they get to work together again.
It's definitely a must see. Put it on your list.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/Director Tamara Jenkins
showed off her flair for dysfunctional families in her last film "Slums
of Beverly Hills". Here she tackles a most difficult, and ever-growing
issue of boomers caring for their elderly parents ... often dealing
with not only declining physical health, but increasingly with
Alzheimers, Dementia and MS. Toss in two not-even-kinda-close siblings
and an estranged, abusive parent in need and you have Ms. Jenkins'
brand of topical observation.
I have been threatening to jump off the Laura Linney bandwagon for a couple of years. Her most recent roles strike me as little more than line reading and beady-eyed stares. Here, she comes to play again. She flashes all the frustration that one would expect from a lonely, mostly intelligent 40ish woman whose life is really just a mess. Her only functional (barely) relationship is with her cat.
Her father's onset of dementia and forced home evacuation causes the necessary teaming with her brother, played by the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman. The two must step up and "take better care of the old man than he ever did for us". Anyone who has been through this painful process recognizes most of the pain, discomfort and loss of dignity that the family must endure. The scene of Linney and her dad on the plane is just excruciating.
The film does a marvelous job of capturing the real life juggles of numerous relationships that we all go through. As if that isn't quite challenging enough, the pending death of a parent and all of the decisions and emotions that go with it act as a compounding stress agent. Here the dad is played to perfection by character actor Philip Bosco as he fights to stay in control even as he recognizes his slippage.
My only complaints with this film are Ms. Jenkins' apparent obsession with prescription drugs and the overall poor direction of the film. She is obviously a magnificent writer, but this film in a real director's hands could have taken the next step. Still, it provides terrific insight into an all too real situation.
One quick point about Philip Seymour Hoffman. This guy has delivered THREE outstanding performances this year with "The Savages", "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead". I believe the Academy should forego the "Best Performance by an Actor" this year and just hand Mr. Hoffman a statue for "Actor of the Year". It is such a pleasure to watch his talent on screen.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Savages", created and directed by Tamara Jenkins, presents us a
real human situation, something most movie makers tend to sugar coat
for the viewer. Ms. Jenkins, who no doubt has known a similar situation
first hand, shows us the indignities a man, at the end of his life,
must deal with. In the process, she takes us to meet two siblings who
have no idea about how their lives will be changed, and how, at the
same time, they will reconnect with their estranged, and dying father.
We meet Lenny at the adult community in Arizona where he's been living with Doris, his long time lover. Lenny has not been close to his two grown up children, after his own marriage to their mother ended. Something snaps in his brain, and suddenly, he starts showing signs he is falling into a dementia, probably caused by Alzheimer's disease. He starts acting up, crating a problem in the assisted living community where he and Doris live. His children, Jon and Wendy, are summoned to help their father after Doris' sudden death.
Jon and Wendy live separate lives. It appears they have grown apart in the years they have been away from home. Jon is a professor at a Buffalo college where he specializes in theater. Wendy, who lives in Manhattan is an aspiring playwright. When they meet, they are appalled at their father's condition. Doris' relatives make it known they have to get him out because they want to sell the apartment.
What to do? Neither one of them has even thought about the probability of being called upon to deal with such a tragedy. They must find a place that will take Lenny right away. Wendy gets a little sample of things to come during the flight back to Buffalo, where Jon has found an affordable nursing home. Wendy's reaction is to ask her brother whether the place reeks of urine, or not.
Nothing has prepared them for what they will have to face in the near future. They are shocked by the conditions they find in the home. The father, in a way, brings them together. Jon, a man with his feet on the ground, knows a lot about his sister's failures as a dramatist and her failed relationship with a married man who only uses her to satisfy his sexual needs.
The beauty of the film is the acting. Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps the best actor working in today's movies, plays Jon with such naturalness that the character and the actor become one. Mr. Hoffman displays every nuance this character requires. He is perfect as this man whose own life is not exactly what he probably set out to be. Laura Linney's Wendy is one of the best roles she has been asked to interpret in the movies. She is nothing short of magnificent in her creation of this woman who lives in the fantasy world of the theater that hasn't been too kind to her. The third great performance is the Lenny of Philip Bosco. He is a man whose mind has betrayed him. The rest of the cast does well under Ms. Jenkins' direction.
Anyone with any experience with an older sick family member, has had to deal with the same situation these Savage children are faced with; those who had, will see themselves mirrored in what the young Savages are going through. A visit to a nursing home, no matter whether one that caters to the rich, or to the poor, is an eye opening experience. Most of us forget the indignities of a sick loved one being confined to one of those places. The once independent and carefree souls are left to depend on the kindness of the people that have the misfortune of working in such institutions.
Ms. Jenkins has done wonders with her clear vision of what must be a hard way to deal when health problems change one's life, as one knew it. In spite of the seriousness of what is shown on the screen, "The Savages" is not a downer, on the contrary. Ms. Jenkins' story is never somber because of the lighter tone throughout the movie. At the same time it offers a positive aspect as the brother and the sister rediscover their bond and move forward.
"The Savages" is one of the best films of 2007!
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