The Savages

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savagesWriter/director Tamara Jenkins impressed the hell out of me with her debut effort Slums of Beverly Hills. It didn’t make my Top 10 that year (or even my Top 20), but it was a wonderful debut effort from this filmmaker.
There were some similarities to her life growing up and that picture, and I’m guessing that’s the same with The Savages.

I just hope what happens with Beverly Hills doesn’t happen with this. That movie didn’t do so well at the box office, which baffles me. It was an interesting screenplay, and you got Marisa Tomei and Alan Arkin as the leads.

The Savages got two equal talents – Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman as the brother/sister – both of whom will get Oscar nominations for their roles. They’re a bit self-absorbed, and not as one-dimensional as a lesser screenwriter would’ve made them. These are interesting people to watch. I just hope people get to the theatres to watch them.

The commercials for the film make it look like a comedy, and it is. To a certain degree. It’s just a dark comedy, and the subject matter might not be for everyone.

Jon and Wendy Savage are mostly concerned with their writing careers. She’s a New York playwright, and he’s a drama professor upstate.

Their father (Philip Bosco) lives in Arizona and has dementia. This means they return to their childhood home and start looking for a place to put him.

We slowly start to find out things about them. They didn’t have the best childhood, their mom was never around, and Linney likes to steal office supplies and pop pills that aren’t prescribed to her.

I’m not sure if I related to this movie so much because I have a father that bailed on our family, and I have both a brother and sister I have a love/hate relationship with. The relationship these two have seems so damn real. They way they throw subtle digs at each other and the looks on their faces.

I think the movie could’ve used one or two more comedic moments, to lighten up such dark subject matter. There are also a few scenes that will break your heart. That’s to be expected with any movie dealing with old age and dementia I suppose.

I thought of another Hoffman while watching Philip Seymour Hoffman. When Dustin Hoffman was in Rainman, one of the things I loved is that Tom Cruise resented his brother and slowly grew to tolerate him, and by the end, care about him. In this movie, the brother and sister don’t have an arc quite like that, but you realize by the end of things, their relationship has improved greatly. It’s just not as obvious as it would be in one of those Hollywood blockbusters where everything has to be spelled out for you.

As a gift to your parents or grandparents this holiday season, why not take them to see The Savages. They’ll get to see a great picture, and their gift will be the promise that you won’t send them off to a home.

I’m giving this movie an A-.

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