Review: The Savages (2007)

The Savages

The Savages

Rating



Director

Tamara Jenkins

Screenplay

Tamara Jenkins

Length

113 min.

Starring

Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman, David Zayas, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Cara Seymour, Tonye Patano, Guy Boyd, Debra Monk, Rosemary Murphy, Hal Blankenship, Joan Jaffe

MPAA Rating

R (for some sexuality and language)

Buy/Rent Movie

Poster

Review

The painful decision to put a loved one into an “assisted care facility” is a difficult decision, but I falls to a brother and sister to make that decision in Tamara Jenkin’s family drama The Savages.

Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco) has been living in a retirement community for a few years. However, his erratic behavior has raised the attention of the community directors and they have requested that his children move him to a more care-intensive facility. Those children are a writer from New York City and a professor from Buffalo.

Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) has serious relationship problems and Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is too wrapped up in his teaching career that this issue is nothing more than an inconvenience. Despite their intelligence, neither is well equipped to deal with the situation. Wendy begins over-analyzing the various facilities at their disposal in New York that could accommodate her father while Jon doesn’t seem to care and just wants to throw dad in any old facility.

When they finally choose a home, the film shifts focus to the impact of making said decision has on Wendy and Jon and they try desperately to cope with the constant attention their father requires and their very personal and very complicated lives.

Jenkins’ screenplay is filled with the kind of stilted dialogue that often gives “art” films a bad name. Thankfully her characters are smart enough that the philosophical discussions they get involved in seem perfectly reasonable. However, too much of the film is spent dissecting the situation and very little is spent developing an emotional connection with the characters.

As has been the case for some time, Hoffman sleepwalks through the film turning in a rather dull and uninteresting performance. His character has few redeeming qualities and there are times when it’s not unusual to wonder what exactly he’s even doing in it.

Linney, on the other hand, brings some humanity to her somewhat self-absorbed character, but her neurotic overcompensation early on too eerily mirrors some of her past performances. While I appreciate her other work better, there are a few shining moments, mostly after she realizes how little time she has left with her father and her fractured and disjointed way of dealing with the pain.

Much of that relief is delivered by Lenny’s final caretaker Jimmy (Gbenga Akinnagbe), a Nigerian nurse who tries to set Wendy’s heart at ease as she struggles through her self-induced guilt. By explaining how things go at the facility, he is able to help her come to terms with what will eventually happen.

The film’s strongest performance, however, comes from Bosco. While I doubt Bosco spent a lot of time visiting nursing homes, it is fairly obvious that he’s either seen his close friends go through a similar turmoil or he has spent a great deal of time contemplating his own future. Either way, Bosco’s tender and heart-touching performance is the kind that only someone who has watched the elderly drift from life could convey.

While The Savages can’t hold a candle to the end-of-life masterpiece Away from Her, it does shows us another side of the struggle, one that only seldom gets handled with any non-comic relevance. So, while it isn’t an exceedingly good film, it’s nice to see the subject tackled with some gravity.

Review Written

September 26, 2008

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