Jan 2008 20

This wonderful little film from Tamara Jenkins is a look at the guilt that surroundings putting a loved one in a nursing home surrounding a couple of characters that are right out of a Wes Anderson/Noah Baumbach film. While the sister/brother combo in this film isn’t as eccentric as some of the characters in those other directors films, they are both a bit emotionally distressed and act a bit younger than their ages say they should.
Laura Linney is the lead Wendy Savage in the film and she does a great job. A struggling playwright working temp jobs in New York seems fairly happy on the surface. As the mistress of a cheating husband she enjoys the sexual attention but has more of a connection with the guy’s dog; who’s walks he uses as an excuse to his extra-marital activities. She gets a wrench thrown into her routine when her father’s girlfriend kicks the bucket and is forced out his home by the woman’s family who has supported him for years. Meeting her brother Jon, the always great Phillip Seymour Hoffman in his third great performance since October, in Arizona to figure out what to do with their dad they discover that he has dementia and will need constant care and will need to go to a nursing home.
The film looks at not just the sibling’s struggles with the process but also the geriatric lifestyle as a whole. It gives you a look at the elderly lives and the comings and goings of a nursing home and gives us a sweet and funny treatment of a potentially depressing material.
Linney’s character is the face of guilt in this film as she struggles with having to put her father in a home, feeling like a horrible child, even though there is an underlying feeling that her father was not the best dad.
Hoffman acts as the voice of reason in the film and while sympathetic to his sister at times, he is not afraid to tell her straight up what she probably needs to hear. Hoffman’s character almost comes across as wanting to just cast his father off and is looking for as little responsibility as possible as he tries to finish his book and fulfill his teaching obligations.
The film slowly builds and gets better as it goes, slowly letting us into these characters lives and problems. The film never drags though as we enjoy getting to know these characters as more and more history comes out as we move along. By the end we are emotionally invested and feel right along with the characters as the story unfolds. The movie works so well do to the fact that the emotions are someone everyone can relate with whether they dread or have endured the endeavor these siblings have to go through.
Philip Bosco deserves mention before all of this is said and done as he does a very good and convincing job as the dementia plagued father. The outbursts, the obliviousness, he greats a sad and likeable character even with the underlying suspicion of neglect he had for his children. His performance makes us believe the effect his decline has on his children even with the possibility of problems in their past.
The Savages is a great family and film to spend time with and is a rewarding experience. Tamara Jenkins look at geriatric life and the effects it has on families is a sweet and funny film that will hopefully find and audience as time goes on among the bustle of quality films out this season. See this for its great performances and sweet story that will leave a smile on your face after the excellent coda for the film.


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