Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Savages (2007)

* * *

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are two of the finest actors in Hollywood, and the pairing of the two seems like a great match, but even their subtle, nuanced performances cannot make the drudge of a script very memorable. Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, The Savages is the story of a brother and sister brought together to care for their aging, ailing father who is rounding the last lap of life. The film is billed as a dark comedy/drama that takes an honest look at the dynamics of family. The Savages clearly approaches the family unit from a unique perspective, that of the baby-boomer generation coping with the role-switch from care-receiver to caretaker within their own family, but the story and script offer very few laughs and plenty of awkward sadness and pity. Hoffman and Linney, as Wendy and Jon Savage, both create distinct characters that come across as very real people the audience can identify with. Many will be able to relate to the older brother, younger sister relationship and all of the disappointment, tension, cooperation, competition, and ultimately love, that it involves. The most memorable performance is likely by Philip Bosco, who portrays the Savage father, Lenny Savage. Bosco embodies the infinite spectrum of mindsets that accompany dementia and the gradual loss of one's mind and self and reminds us all too well of someone we may have in our lives. But unfortunately, the performances alone cannot carry the film as the direction and writing don't pull the viewer into the storyline or leave a lasting impression. The most memorable scene occurs in the film's first five minutes and involves the use of bodily fluids. The Savages will appeal to those who can directly relate to the characters and the circumstances, but those looking for laughs may find that the wait is pretty long and may not have been worth it.

Good For: psychologists, people who like family dramas, people who like sad films

Bad For: fans of dark comedies, Wes Anderson fans, the easily bored

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