Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Savages

“People are dying Wendy, right inside that beautiful building right now. It’s a fucking horror show and all this wellness propaganda and the landscaping is just there to obscure the miserable fact that people die, and death is gaseous, and gruesome, and it’s filled with shit and piss and rotten stink.”

Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a college professor and writer of scholarly work in Buffalo. Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) works temp jobs and is a struggling playwright in New York City. The pair are brought back together to deal with their estranged father’s (Philip Bosco) increasing dementia and failing health.

This is a film about the tough choices and circumstances families go through with the ailing of their parents. It doesn’t shy away from the pain and guilt inherent in the tough but necessary choices so many families are put through dealing with parents who can no longer take care of themselves.

There are no simplistic Holiday sappy moments here. These people aren’t going to live happily ever after, but they will struggle and survive, learning about life and themselves in the process. It’s not always pleasant, sometimes heartbreaking and sometimes funny, but there are many memorable moments throughout the film’s near two-hour running time.

In terms of performance it is really a three man piece. Linney, Hoffman and Bosco do well in their roles as family members who care but don’t quite know how to take care of themselves, let alone each other. Each one is terrific in their own way. Hoffman’s Jon is a man who wants to control a life out of control and is forced to deal with his long standing issues with his father and the forced deportation of his longtime girlfriend (Cara Seymour). Linney is just right as a woman who has gotten so good at lying and rationalizing that it’s become second nature to herself, her family, and the married man (Peter Friedman) she is having an affair with. And Bosco balances the anger and sadness of a man slowly losing control of his own mind.

The naming of the Savages, although perhaps a little too clever, works well as these children (Jon and Wendy) living out their own dreams and lives are forced to return and deal with harsh reality. It’s not a perfect movie and does contain a couple of almost-too-cute-for-film moments (including the aftermath of Hoffman’s tennis injury), but its got a good bruised heart which it’s willing to share.

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