365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

12Mar/150

The Savages (2007)

Perhaps two of the best performances of the careers both Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote, Doubt) and Laura Linney (The Squid and the Whale, You Can Count on Me) are on display in the most under-appreciated movie in 2007,  Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills) The Savages. This movie scored a quality 89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes yet amassed just $6.4 million at the box office. I did not see this movie in the theater. I remember hearing a lot about it, but I don't remember seeing many trailers. And, at the time, this wasn't a movie that I thought I would be interested in. I am always a little lukewarm on movies classified as drama and comedies. They are hit or miss for me. When they are good, they are great. But, for me, that seems to be the exception to the rule. In fact, the only reason I saw it was because it had such a high rating and because Linney earned a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her performance. There was no one who recommended this movie to me. It was a movie that I told myself I would sit through, and probably not enjoy, based on the reasons I listed above. Boy was a I wrong. The Savages is an absolutely fantastic movie and hits close to home for most of us and some point in our lives.

As I mentioned, Hoffman and Linney have never been better in my opinion. They played well off of each other. As middle-aged brother and sister dealing with an emotionally aging parent suffering from dementia and trying to come to terms with this, how to get him the proper care he needs, and how this will affect their lives, they both might have been portraying the most real life characters they've ever portrayed. Furthermore, they have to make a series of rash decisions when their father Lenny (Philip Bosco - Hitch, The Money Pit) is kicked out of the planned retirement community home he was living (and being cared for) at after his girlfriend dies. We quickly learn that Wendy (Linney) and Jon (Hoffman) have difficulty caring for themselves, let alone a sick parent. Much like my recently reviewed The Skeleton Twins, The Savages cuts into that hit or miss drama/comedy genre. And while this movie does have its funny moments, it is much more a drama than it is a comedy.

After Lenny is kicked to the street following the death of the woman he was dating for 20 years, it is up to Wendy and Jon to decide what to do with him. To quote the phrase, "out of sight, out of mind" would be the best way to describe the siblings' relationship with their father. Not only does he live in Arizona while they live in New York (he in Buffalo, she in Manhattan) Wendy and Jon don't exactly have the closest relationship either. She is a truth-stretcher in the kindest sense of the word. She tells her brother about getting  Guggenheim grants when, in fact, she is an failed freelance playwright. She holds a lot of resentment towards the world. Her moral compass seems to be altered as she engages in a dead end affair with her neighbor Larry (Peter Friedman - Side Effects, Love and Other Drugs), a lustful married man whom she really doesn't care for, but seems to care even less about the feelings of his wife. She's a dreamer and is living a life that is nowhere close to her dreams. Likewise, Jon's life isn't full of bright rainbows. He's overweight, has high cholesterol, and is depressed. He is a theater professor. He has a girlfriend who is in the United States on a travel visa. She is set to depart soon unless the two of them get married. He loves her, but he won't marry her because he doesn't believe he is emotionally sound enough to handle a relationship (case in point...he cries each time she makes him eggs). Wendy and Jon aren't exactly lost causes, but they aren't necessarily taking the right steps to improve their lives.

The comedy in this movie is not particularly humorous. It's a quirky, black humor as much as it is an uncomfortable humor. We are not envious of these characters. They aren't particularly happy in any sense of the word and no they've just had a wrench thrown into their everyday lives. They are poorly educated in dealing with not just an aging parent, but an aging parent in the early onset of dementia. Even worse than their lack of education is their lack of patience. Wendy and Jon are each hoping that the other takes on the brunt of the responsibility, but know that this is an unrealistic expectation. So instead, like any other set of humans, they do the best they can with an imperfect situation. The look into nursing homes, trying the best to find the one that is the best fit for all the parties involved. There are uncomfortable situations through this movie. These include Lenny's pants falling down on his way to the bathroom while on an airplane, exposing his adult diaper to everyone aboard as well as a conversation in which John and Wendy have to ask their father what his wishes are if he such things happen like he is put onto a breathing machine. While Lenny wasn't exactly the greatest father in the world, Wendy and Jon know what their responsibility is as his children. And so they learn on the fly while slowly trying to savior their last days with him while also re-cultivating a relationship with each other and trying to compliment each other's strengths and help one another with their struggles.

The movie feels real, perhaps a little too real. I know when I've explained the premise to a few people in their 50's and 60's they said they had no interest in seeing it because they either are going through or have recently gone through a very similar situation with a parent. They have no interest in watching that played out on the screen. And that makes total sense to me. It is very sad how we a lot of us grow old. I think about my own grandparents. I knew all four of mine plus one of my great grandmothers very well. Of these five, I didn't lose my first one until I was 15. He was my maternal grandfather and he died in his sleep after suffering a heart attack. He was young (in his mid 60's) and, at the time, I thought his death was the saddest. But then I saw how much the other four suffered with all of their health ailments and I wondered if he got the best deal of all of them. My paternal grandfather lived to be 96 (30 years longer than my maternal one). He had a great life, but the last couple were brutal. But was never really confined to a bed for extended periods of time. I wish I could say the same thing about my grandmothers. They suffered...immensely at times.

Plot 9/10
Character Development 9/10
Character Chemistry 9.5/10
Acting 10/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing 9/10
Cinematography 8/10
Sound 7/10
Hook and Reel 9/10
Universal Relevance 10/10
89.5%

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