The Savages (2007)

DVD Cover (Fox Searchlight)
Genres: Comedy Drama, Domestic Comedy, Family Drama, Medical Drama
Jon and Wendy Savage are two siblings who have spent their adult years trying to recover from the abuse of their abusive father, Lenny Savage. Suddenly, a call comes in that his girlfriend has died, he cannot care for himself with his dementia and her family is dumping him on his children. Despite the fact Jon and Wendy have not spoken to Lenny for twenty years and he is even more loathsome than ever, the Savage siblings feel obliged to take care of him. Now together, brother and sister must come to terms with the new and painful responsibilities with their father now affecting their lives even as they struggle with their own personal demons Lenny helped create. --IMDb
Tamara Jenkins Tamara Jenkins
Laura Linney Laura Linney
Philip Seymour Hoffman Philip Seymour Hoffman
Philip Bosco Philip Bosco
Peter Friedman Peter Friedman
David Zayas David Zayas

6.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 15, 2008
Ladies and gentlemen - 2007 was officially the year for Philip Seymour Hoffman. I can't think of an actor in recent memory who has turned in such an impressive body of work in the course of one cinematic year. First, he delivered a knockout performance in Terrence Malick's "Before the Devil Knows You're Dead" as a desperate and confused man searching for money and an easy way out. Next, he stole the thunder from the likes of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts as a gruff-talking CIA agent in Mike Nichols "Charlie Wilson's War". Now, he stars as a mildly depressed theatre teacher trying to cope with his ailing father in the new film from Tamara Jenkins, "The Savages". The film feels like it was wrapped and tied in a bow, smile ready for the viewing audience. In its own world, the film is perfectly constructed and executed. It's a quirky, humorous, cynical, heartbreaking and enlightening journey into the lives of a dysfunctional family unlike any you've seen before. While watching the film, I kept feeling traces of "Winter Passing". That is a good thing, and "The Savages" is a good film. It might even be great.

The film opens with the elderly Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco) using his own fecal matter to decorate the walls of his bathroom with nouns. We learn that Lenny has dementia, and when his girlfriend dies shortly thereafter, his two kids are forced to come and take care of the situation. The thing is - Lenny was a terrible father, abusive and never there. He has seen nor spoken to his kids in years. Wendy (Laura Linney) is an unmarried aspiring playwright who lives in New York and is in the middle of an affair with a married man, to whom her most promising attachment lies with his dog. Her older brother, John (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is a theatre professor who is writing a novel and coping with the loss of his European girlfriend, whose visa expired. John's first instinct is to put Lenny in a nursing home, though Wendy feels guilty about it. They move Lenny to a facility called Valley View in Buffalo, where John teaches. Wendy moves in with John through the holidays as they attempt to get their father settled. The film deals with the struggle between Wendy and John to come to terms with their father in the present and accept the ways in which their lives have turned out. "The Savages" explored familial relationships and the sibling rivalries that never really leave us, even in adulthood.

Written with astute bluntness by Tamara Jenkins, "The Savages" doesn't present a pretty picture of dysfunction. Lenny was one hell of a bad father, as we can see in the way his presence in their adolescence has shaped their lives today. Both of his kids are unmarried, somewhat unhappy and can't seem to find their respective ways. That said, in his old age, Lenny is now a different man. He still has outbursts of anger, but he has mellowed somewhat and seems to occasionally appreciate what his son and daughter are doing for him. What was interesting was the scenes where John and Wendy are fighting about their father right in front of him, as if he's not even there at all. "The Savages" shows how the elderly become the equivalent of children in their old age, evident from the scene between Lenny and Wendy on the plane to Buffalo. But, the film also focuses on the sibling rivalry between John and Wendy. Both are writers and both are well-educated in their respective fields, but both seem confused and unsure about the idea of the other finding success. They also disapprove of one another's choices. There is a level of trust not existent in their relationship, yet it seems they relied on one another a great deal for support when they were younger, due to their father.

The performances here are rock solid. Philip Seymour Hoffman turns in his third Academy Award worthy performance of the year as John Savage. He has so many moments here that rely on the subtle nature of his performance. He wears his emotions on his sleeve, and one of his best moments comes when he is eating eggs at the breakfast table and just can't fight back his feelings. Hoffman is doing no wrong these days. And Laura Linney is the perfect peanut butter to his jelly. She remains one of the most skillful and engaging actresses working today and she is brilliant here as Wendy Savage. Watching Hoffman and Linney play off one another - at the top of their fields - is one of those moments you just relish whenever you get the chance. As Lenny, Philip Bosco makes one hell of a comeback. I haven't seen him in anything for a while now and he once again shows how capable he is as an actor. His best scene comes when the two kids are fighting in the car and he does the only thing he knows to do - turn down his hearing aid and pull his hood up over his head. It's sad on a multitude of levels.

There's just so much to admire about the film - from the way Arizona is shot, with the perfectly lined houses and Lawrence Welk-esque music to the stark, cold Winter of the New York landscape. "The Savages" is just a neatly wound picture that doesn't push anything too far. It takes everything to the right levels and lets it work. Tamara Jenkins is continuing to prove herself as a director and "The Savages" is her best film to date. It's a film about family, a film about relationships, a film about commitment - and, most of all, it's a film about acceptance - of both life and death. My suggestions would be Philip Seymour Hoffman for Best Actor, Laura Linney for Best Actress, Philip Bosco for Best Supporting Actor and Tamara Jenkins for Best Original Screenplay. This film could easily slip right out of your view if you don't watch it. Catch it while you can. If not, you'll be depriving yourself of a satisfying emotional commitment.

Tristan #1: Tristan - added 12/29/2008, 11:05 PM
Very glad I picked this one up. Phillip Seymour Hoffman continues to impress me more and more with each picture he does, and this was no exception. He's one of those people you just beg to see on the screen. Great performances from the rest of the cast as well. The ending came a bit suddenly, and surprisingly so, but it only added to the realism of the film.

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