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The Savages
3 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Tamara Jenkins

Written By:
Tamara Jenkins

Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman, Cara Seymour, Guy Boyd, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Bob Huff, Zoe Kazan, Nancy Lenehan, Laura Linney, Salem Ludwig, Margo Martindale, Debra Monk, David Zayas, Schuster Vance, Erica Berg, Sidné Anderson, Tonye Patano, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Elaine Huff, Alyssa Waldrip, Michael Blackson, John Bolton, Joan Jaffe, Carmen Román, Tobin Tyler, Alyssa Waldrip, Evangeline Johns, Hal Blankenship, Tijuana Ricks, Lynnanne Zager

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The Savages (2007)
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Movie Review by Ben
December 28th, 2007

"The Savages" is a movie that deals with siblings who take their father as he enters the final stages of dementia, which is anything but fun. However, these siblings are doing this more out of some familial responsibility as opposed to love and respect. Although we never get too many specifics, we come to understand that this brother and sister never really loved their father, and that their father was never really the nicest guy. These two have suffered a lot of psychological damage through their lives which affects the way they act around themselves and other people. They are clearly a dysfunctional couple of people who after all these years still have many issues to work out.

The brother and sister in this movie are played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney, two of the very best actors working in film today. I have yet to see either of them give a truly bad performance in anything. Both have commitment issues, and they have issues with each other. They still suffer the pangs of parental neglect which appear to last a whole lifetime.

Philip plays Jon Savage, a Professor of theater who is constantly working on a book analyzing the works of Brecht. His girlfriend's visa is up, so she has to go back to Poland. Jon is not sure if he wants her to stay or not. Most likely, he is afraid of ending up like his father. Laura plays Wendy Savage, an aspiring playwright constantly on the search for grants and funding for an autobiographical play based on her family life. She does this when she should be doing work at her cubicle-slave job, but what are you gonna do? She is also having an affair with a married man who is a fellow colleague and several years her senior. Suffice to say, she is afraid of ending up like her father as well.

The patriarch of the Savage family, Lenny Savage, is played by Philip Bosco, a character actor we have seen in many different movies. He is a stubborn man, unwilling to take orders from a nurse (David Zayas from HBO's "Oz" and Showtime's "Dexter") who tells Lenny to flush the toilet after he does his business. Lenny retaliates by smearing his feces on the wall, and writes out a special name for the nurse who is assigned to take care of his girlfriend. From his first appearance, it is clear that Lenny is not the easiest guy in the world to get along with to say the least.

The movie is brutally honest in the way it depicts the conditions in nursing homes which are not always adequate, and the frustration people deal with when they reach a point in their lives where they can only help so much, or where they can no longer help themselves. The father ends up in a facility where he has to share a rather dingy room with another person, and it is filled with fluorescent lighting that serves as a reminder of how we still suffer from adult acne.

The acting, unsurprisingly, is impeccable here and nothing short of excellent. Philip Seymour Hoffman continues to add to his gallery of exceptional performances as a man who treats the issue of taking care of his decaying father with some hesitation. His attitude of cynicism and irritation serves to cover up a painful rift between himself and his father, and of feelings he is not sure he wants to face. On the surface, his character may seem unlikable, but you can see why he acts the way he does.

Laura Linney is also brilliant as usual in a performance that reminded me of another movie called "You Can Count On Me" which she starred in with Mark Ruffalo. That was another story of siblings that were also damaged by a youth with the absence of parents (they were killed in a car crash). She is uncertain of where life is taking her, and is sensitive to the way she and her brother treat their ailing father. When she and her brother drop their father off at a facility that seems more like a prison more than anything else, she feels horrible and feels like she and her brother are such horrible people. Her life is a mess, and she knows that she needs to get her act together.

The movie was directed by Tamara Jenkins, and this is her first feature film in almost ten years since her last movie, "The Slums of Beverly Hills." She does great work here and never sugarcoats the reality of the world these characters inhabit. Her vision of the siblings' father in a nursing home is depressingly honest, and she succeeds however in finding some humor in the character's situation. Granted, this is not a comedy, and it is a drama more than anything else, but she does see the flaws in the characters very clearly to the point where we cannot help but laugh at them a little.

At the very least, "The Savages" is a great movie to watch for those who would like to watch great film acting, and it will hopefully motivate those who are about to be parents to be good and loving ones. This will frighten them straight into being good parents instead of bad ones.

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