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  • wisewebwoman10 January 2008
    This film, along with "Away from Her" are the best elder-films I've seen all year (2007).

    There is an honesty to the movie about a brother and sister relationship that is genuine and heart warming. Philip Seymour Hoffman (Jon, the professor) and Laura Linney (as Wendy, aspiring playwright)are perfectly cast in the roles of the sister and brother who have to deal with their obnoxious, foul-mouthed elderly father, Lenny, played by Philip Bosco in a riveting performance.

    Their childhoods have been difficult, abuse is hinted at along with a runaway mother. They are now confronted with the care and responsibility of their father who has been deemed incompetent (and penniless). The effects of their childhood on these now adult children is played out well. They are incapable of intimacy with potential partners and even with each other.

    How they slowly gain an understanding of themselves and each other is an ongoing major thread of the movie and is beautifully depicted. A one of a kind sibling movie. 9 out of 10. Recommended.
  • To put it simply, "The Savages" is the most human look at life I've seen in theaters this year. It's incredibly easy to relate to if you have ever ever seen some relative or family friend of yours get old and then forget who you are due to some sort of elder person's disease. It features three of the year's finest performances from Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Phillip Brosco, all of whom radiate on the screen as real, ordinary but complex, people. Linney and Hoffman play brother and sister, two writers who have an argumentative but loving way of getting along. Brosco plays their father, who has done something really, well, "dirty," and has drawn the attention of the family that had been caring for him, who no longer wish to do so.

    From there, Linney and Hoffman's characters meet up with the father whom they haven't seen in years, and who was never very compassionate towards them. However, their father has dementia, and slowly begins to forget who they are. Instead of their main concern being whether or not he's kind to them, the kids are afraid they won't be able to communicate with him at all. The way Tamara Jenkins handles this, from both the perspective of the kids and the perspective of the father, is brilliant. She really understands the way family relations work, as her film is spot-on in that aspect.

    The three performances are all great for their own reasons. Linney plays a woman who is really confused with her life: she's having an affair with a married man who's ten years older than her, she lies to everyone she knows about things that aren't worth it, and she is having a lot of trouble getting produced as a writer. Hoffman, her older brother, has a really relaxed humanistic side to him, always countering Linney's loud worrisome actions with a calm, mind-processing technique. The chemistry between this brother-sister duo - probably the only opposite-sex-adult-aged-duo that doesn't have any romantic elements (for obvious reasons) - is one of the most realistic works of chemistry you'll find in a theater this year. Throw in Phillip Brosco - who absolutely conquers the dementia that his character has (my aunt has dementia, so I see her all the time and know that his face and way of talking and mannerisms are all spot on) - and you've got three characters who are so strong alone that they're enough reason to see this movie, funny-touching script and story aside.

    While all three performances were incredible, I'd have to say that my favorite performance came from Hoffman. Linney played the confused-wreck card very well, but it's not like she's the first actress to confront or conquer that territory. Brosco was astoundingly realistic as a man with dementia, but his role doesn't carry very far beyond that. Hoffman's performance, while not "loud" in any way, is simply the best portrayal of an ordinary human being I've seen in years, if that makes any sense. Everything, from the way he reacts to what people say, to the way he talks, to the way he expresses emotion when he's feeling it - all of it is executed so well that I can't believe that he was actually acting.

    The ending of the film is very humane. It doesn't have any major twists or bangs, but it doesn't end on a nothing-note either. It teaches us that the lessons we learn from one experience can help us deal with the next, and it's the many small messages like this and the very life-like feel of the film's craft that make it one of the most special films I had the experience of seeing at a theater this year.
  • jannett30 January 2008
    I would say this is one of the most underrated movies of 2007.This movie has it all,acting,directing,comedy,true life etc.So many of us baby boomers can really identify with this movie and what the characters are going through.I had the opportunity of seeing this movie at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2007,and when the tickets went on sale to the public for the two showings they were both sold out within 30 minutes.This is a must see movie that just doesn't get the ravings that so many other movies are getting.Now that it has had two nominations for this year's Academy Awards let's hope that it gets its rightful recognition.
  • "The Savages" has been terribly mismarketed. I'm sure plenty of people who went to watch it having seen only the previews, thought it was a comedy, and were disappointed. If anything, this is a "dramedy" - it will make you smile a few times, but never laugh out loud. But that's not a bad thing, the other way around.

    This is a story about two siblings, Wendy (Laura Linney, who earned a surprise - and much deserved - Oscar nomination for this performance) and Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who have to take care of their ailing, estranged father, Lenny (Philip Bosco). Fathers and kids relationships have been discussed in tons of movies, but Tamara Jenkins (real life wife of Jim Taylor, co-author of Alexander Payne's scripts - they both produced this movie, by the way) managed to create something fresh and beautiful in its own simplicity (and, at the same time, so complex and painfully real, for all of those who've had difficult family relationships - and who hasn't?). "The Savages" reminds me of Noah Baumbach's "The Squid and the Whale", also starring Laura Linney - but with a little less humor, and perhaps even more heart. Hoffman and Bosco are also great, as usual. Jenkins proves that she's a very sensitive writer/director, and I'm excited to check whatever she does next. I'm rooting for either her or Diablo Cody ("Juno") to win the Oscar for best original screenplay next month (coincidentally, both movies have The Velvet Underground's "I'm Sticking With You" in the soundtrack). 10/10.
  • jotix10028 December 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    "The Savages", created and directed by Tamara Jenkins, presents us a real human situation, something most movie makers tend to sugar coat for the viewer. Ms. Jenkins, who no doubt has known a similar situation first hand, shows us the indignities a man, at the end of his life, must deal with. In the process, she takes us to meet two siblings who have no idea about how their lives will be changed, and how, at the same time, they will reconnect with their estranged, and dying father.

    We meet Lenny at the adult community in Arizona where he's been living with Doris, his long time lover. Lenny has not been close to his two grown up children, after his own marriage to their mother ended. Something snaps in his brain, and suddenly, he starts showing signs he is falling into a dementia, probably caused by Alzheimer's disease. He starts acting up, crating a problem in the assisted living community where he and Doris live. His children, Jon and Wendy, are summoned to help their father after Doris' sudden death.

    Jon and Wendy live separate lives. It appears they have grown apart in the years they have been away from home. Jon is a professor at a Buffalo college where he specializes in theater. Wendy, who lives in Manhattan is an aspiring playwright. When they meet, they are appalled at their father's condition. Doris' relatives make it known they have to get him out because they want to sell the apartment.

    What to do? Neither one of them has even thought about the probability of being called upon to deal with such a tragedy. They must find a place that will take Lenny right away. Wendy gets a little sample of things to come during the flight back to Buffalo, where Jon has found an affordable nursing home. Wendy's reaction is to ask her brother whether the place reeks of urine, or not.

    Nothing has prepared them for what they will have to face in the near future. They are shocked by the conditions they find in the home. The father, in a way, brings them together. Jon, a man with his feet on the ground, knows a lot about his sister's failures as a dramatist and her failed relationship with a married man who only uses her to satisfy his sexual needs.

    The beauty of the film is the acting. Philip Seymour Hoffman, perhaps the best actor working in today's movies, plays Jon with such naturalness that the character and the actor become one. Mr. Hoffman displays every nuance this character requires. He is perfect as this man whose own life is not exactly what he probably set out to be. Laura Linney's Wendy is one of the best roles she has been asked to interpret in the movies. She is nothing short of magnificent in her creation of this woman who lives in the fantasy world of the theater that hasn't been too kind to her. The third great performance is the Lenny of Philip Bosco. He is a man whose mind has betrayed him. The rest of the cast does well under Ms. Jenkins' direction.

    Anyone with any experience with an older sick family member, has had to deal with the same situation these Savage children are faced with; those who had, will see themselves mirrored in what the young Savages are going through. A visit to a nursing home, no matter whether one that caters to the rich, or to the poor, is an eye opening experience. Most of us forget the indignities of a sick loved one being confined to one of those places. The once independent and carefree souls are left to depend on the kindness of the people that have the misfortune of working in such institutions.

    Ms. Jenkins has done wonders with her clear vision of what must be a hard way to deal when health problems change one's life, as one knew it. In spite of the seriousness of what is shown on the screen, "The Savages" is not a downer, on the contrary. Ms. Jenkins' story is never somber because of the lighter tone throughout the movie. At the same time it offers a positive aspect as the brother and the sister rediscover their bond and move forward.

    "The Savages" is one of the best films of 2007!
  • rddj0516 January 2008
    If you look for honesty portrayed in film, you can't do much better than The Savages. This is an example of the type of film that rarely sees the light of day, simply because it refuses to compromise. Despite it's grim subject matter, there is plenty of humor in this film, which mainly arises from the absurdity of situations that feel so genuinely familiar. All the performances across the board are fantastic, and Ms. Jenkins was miraculously able to get funding for a film that didn't include the casting of a single "pretty young thing". Every single person in the the film genuinely looks like the real article (note: for equally impressive casting, check out Sarah Polly's "Away From Her".) There are numerous places where this film could've taken a turn into typical Hollywood schmaltz and portrayed situations in a less-than-honest way, but it's director and actors refused to go there. Thank goodness they didn't.
  • The Savages (2007) was written and directed by Tamara Jenkins. Jenkins gets everything right in this film about three family members who barely connect with each other. Laura Linney plays Wendy Savage--a NYC playwright who works as a temp and waits for an artistic breakthrough. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays her brother Jon, who teaches drama at a college in Buffalo. Although the siblings aren't particularly hostile towards each other, they clearly don't have a close or affectionate relationship.

    A health crisis makes it necessary for the two to travel to Sun City, Arizona, to care for their father. We only see Lenny Savage as an old man with dementia. He's not exactly a warm and loving person as the film opens. Moreover, we learn that he wasn't a great parent before the dementia, either. Both his son and his daughter don't keep in touch with him, nor he with them. Now they have to deal with a crisis that forces them together.

    Hoffman and Linney are two of he finest actors on the screen today, and, when they play off against each other, the result is movie magic. Everything rings true--their love/hate relationship, their professional jealousy, and their disapproval of each other's love life. They aren't exactly the two people best suited to make life and death decisions about their father, but that's the reality they face, and they have to deal with it as best they can.

    I've written almost 200 reviews for IMDb, and I've never even considered mentioning the casting director. This review is the exception. My compliments to Jeanne McCarthy, who has filled this movie with an extraordinary set of actors in small roles. Everyone Wendy and Jon meet looks right for the role--nurses, psychologists, administrators, aides, students, etc., etc. It would be worth seeing the movie again just to watch the actors who aren't stars.

    There's also an excellent supporting actor. Peter Friedman plays Larry, the married man with whom Wendy is having an affair. Their scene in a motel room is short but both powerful and poignant. (Actually, every scene in which Linney appears is powerful and poignant, but Friedman holds his own in this one.)

    We saw the movie in a theater, but an intimate film of this type should do well on DVD. Incidentally, most of the movie takes place in Buffalo, New York, and director Jenkins obviously has a real feel for the city and its people.

    This may be the best independent film of 2007. Don't miss it!
  • ferguson-629 December 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    Greetings again from the darkness. Writer/Director Tamara Jenkins showed off her flair for dysfunctional families in her last film "Slums of Beverly Hills". Here she tackles a most difficult, and ever-growing issue of boomers caring for their elderly parents ... often dealing with not only declining physical health, but increasingly with Alzheimers, Dementia and MS. Toss in two not-even-kinda-close siblings and an estranged, abusive parent in need and you have Ms. Jenkins' brand of topical observation.

    I have been threatening to jump off the Laura Linney bandwagon for a couple of years. Her most recent roles strike me as little more than line reading and beady-eyed stares. Here, she comes to play again. She flashes all the frustration that one would expect from a lonely, mostly intelligent 40ish woman whose life is really just a mess. Her only functional (barely) relationship is with her cat.

    Her father's onset of dementia and forced home evacuation causes the necessary teaming with her brother, played by the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman. The two must step up and "take better care of the old man than he ever did for us". Anyone who has been through this painful process recognizes most of the pain, discomfort and loss of dignity that the family must endure. The scene of Linney and her dad on the plane is just excruciating.

    The film does a marvelous job of capturing the real life juggles of numerous relationships that we all go through. As if that isn't quite challenging enough, the pending death of a parent and all of the decisions and emotions that go with it act as a compounding stress agent. Here the dad is played to perfection by character actor Philip Bosco as he fights to stay in control even as he recognizes his slippage.

    My only complaints with this film are Ms. Jenkins' apparent obsession with prescription drugs and the overall poor direction of the film. She is obviously a magnificent writer, but this film in a real director's hands could have taken the next step. Still, it provides terrific insight into an all too real situation.

    One quick point about Philip Seymour Hoffman. This guy has delivered THREE outstanding performances this year with "The Savages", "Charlie Wilson's War" and "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead". I believe the Academy should forego the "Best Performance by an Actor" this year and just hand Mr. Hoffman a statue for "Actor of the Year". It is such a pleasure to watch his talent on screen.
  • 'The Savages' is a humble humane look at a part of life. Tamara Jenkins tells a powerful comedic story of two siblings struggle with their estranged, demented and dying father. For me, the characters are easy to relate to as in Wendy, Jon and Lenny, I recognize many people I know. The story does not have much of an eventful plot. It's more a study of characters and relationship and, as I mentioned earlier, a look at part of life.

    The portrayal of the brother-sister relationship by Linney and Hoffman is genuine and strong thanks to the real chemistry. I was reminded of another beautiful movie, 'You Can Count On Me' which also focused on sibling relationships (and also starred Laura Linney but in a completely different role) and it was interesting to compare the older brother-younger sister bond with the older sister-younger brother bond. Both Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are accomplished actors and it is not surprising that they were great and very natural. Philip Bosco too is brilliant as the demented father but we don't see anything of his character beyond that. The father-children is the third angle of the film and this too is authentically portrayed. The children are in a state of ambivalence about their father who was mean and abusive but whom they also want to help. Among the other performances, relative newcomer Gbenga Akinnagbe stands out.

    What i liked most about it is the chemistry between the brothers but even the small moments between the main characters and the supporting ones was quite well shown within a limited screen-time, like the moment between Jon and Cara did display their true feelings and the few moments between Jimmy and Wendy show the impact it has on Wendy. Jenkins shows her good understanding of family relations and brings some of her own experience into the film. The struggle of the two siblings to get noticed, to deal with their own problems and that of their family is one many of us can associate with and it is cleverly shown with a touch of comedy in this genuine funny little film. i wanted to watch this movie at a theatre with a friend but she didn't seem too enthusiastic but I'm glad that I finally caught it. I'm looking forward to watching it on DVD again.
  • I saw this last night at the Sedona Film Festival. This is a great movie. Although it may be a depressing subject, no one can deny that it is real life. It's one of those odd comforting type movies in that it allows the viewer to relate on a personal level.

    The acting is superb. Hoffman and Linny draw you right into their lonely worlds. They deliver a poignant realistic view of adult life after being abandoned as a child. They really compliment each other. I would be happy to see some nominations in the future for this one. I also hope they get to work together again.

    It's definitely a must see. Put it on your list.
  • snzing_online7 November 2007
    I saw this at an early screening last night in LA, with Philip Seymour-Hoffman in attendance. It is a first-rate movie. The acting is impeccable, the story is subtle and engaging, the camera work is lifelike and natural.

    The most impressive part of the movie for me was it's attention to detail. It is a story about three people's lives as they intersect, and while the film spotlights the interactions that ensue, it is not at the expense of other stories that are occurring in the background.

    I loved it. And while the subject matter can be emotional, it has a very smart humor as well.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Excellent performances from everyone involved and a very good script: but I chose it thinking it was a comedy, due to a highly misleading blurb on the video box! Not everyone would be so open-minded! In particular I would like to mention the restraint shown by the writer. It would have been so easy to show us exactly how Lenny was a useless father: but we were left to work it out for ourselves, by observing the results of his handiwork ie his unhappy children.

    Hollywood struggles endlessly with the "portrayal of minorities" issue. I was very impressed with the sympathetic portrayal of Caribbean and African immigrants in the nursing home. Another gold star for the writer: it would have been so easy to show the nursing home as a living hell: but she resisted the temptation. And she resisted the temptation to demonise Laura Linney's boyfriend, which would have been so easy.

    All in all a victory for unfashionable "English" qualities of holding back, showing restraint, etc. Too many films leave too little to the imagination.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Watched in the Toronto International Film Festival with a personal appearance of director Tarama Jenkins

    Perhaps because the two protagonists and a main support character are all theatre people, a reminder to the effect that "this is real life" has been uttered several times at the early part of the movie, by more than one character. Attentive audience will take the hint: this is no melodrama, but an honest, while insightful, depiction of what real life is like.

    We have the currently two best actors for such real-life roles, Philip Seymore Hoffman and Laura Linney, playing respectively 42-year-pld brother Jon Savage, a theatre-art professor in Buffalo and 39-year-old "little sister" Wendy Savage, who aspires to the seemingly elusive career as a playwright in New York. Although Hoffman won his Oscar by playing an eccentric character (Truman Capote), it is in portraying common everyday characters that he really shines and deserves recognition, such as the compulsive gambler in "Owning Mahowny" (2003). It is certainly good news that after a brief detour to "Mission impossible III", he comes back to make movies like "The Savages". Linney has been brilliant in movies like "Kinsey" (2004) (best supporting actress nominee) and "The squid and the whale" (2005), brilliant and under-recognized. Many think that "The Savages" could be the one to fetch her an Oscar but, as much as I hope that this will happen, I am not optimistic. If you look a the winners of best lead actress in the last few years, you'll likely agree with me that Wendy Savage is not the type of role that will impress Oscar voters, regardless of how brilliant the performance is.

    The plot, if you can call it one, is simplicity itself. The siblings, who live only about 500 miles away from each other but apparently do not make frequent contact, are called together to fly to Sun City, Arizona, to take care of their aging father whose advancing dementia makes it impossible for him to stay in a retirement community. The rest of the story basically follows how they put him in a nursing home in Buffalo near Jon's house, to the time he finally dies. Painful the scenario is, it is so very familiar and quite inevitable to many average people who have parents surviving to old age. And as I hinted, this film is entirely devoid of melodrama. There are huge potentials for melodrama: irresponsible parents abandoning young children, the usual sibling rivalry, midlife crisis, extramarital affair (single Wendy with married man), uncertain relationship (Jon's 3-year-long Polish girlfriend's visa soon expires and despite their love, they don't want marriage), career frustrations and agonies of aging and dying. Under Tamara Jenkins' levelheaded and sensible direction, these characters react to these situations in a normal way, get emotional occasionally but never fly of the handle or scream until they choke. Nor do things go to the other extreme to minimalism – average humans are not stoics.

    As my summary line suggests about this movie, "it is real life". "What a dull movie" you may exclaim. Anything but dull! Life, you see, is full of these un-melodramatic little dramas. It takes an insightful and sensitive director to extract the funny elements out of tragedy, poignancy out of comedy and both out of mundane daily life. You are fully absorbed in the events surrounding the brother and sister for the very simple reason that they are so real. In addition, there is a large ensemble of interesting supporting characters. Some are rather substantial parts such as Wendy's lover Larry (Peter Friedman) while others may appear for only a minute. But they all serve to both entertain you and enrich the world of the Savages. Oh yes, there's a cat and a dog too, not to mention a plant.
  • mikezexcel19 January 2007
    I saw an advance screening in Los Angeles. It's not a National Geographic Special as the title might suggest, rather a family drama about the Savage family. I was curious about a project that attracted the talent of Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, even though I knew nothing of the movie. At first, I was turned off by an early scene involving human excrement, which I assumed was included to hook anyone who might think poo is always funny. But I warmed to the movie overall, and it actually left a deep and lasting impression on me. It is mostly dramatic, but there is enough humor for a nice balance. A particular moment I liked was when the sister (Linney) gets a plant for her dad's bedroom, and the supermarket sticker is still visible on the plastic pot. To me it represents good intentions compounded by a lack of time or focus in attention to the details, and this scene has stuck with me for some reason. This is a great movie for anyone who has, or will have, aging parents in their lives. See it.
  • As we move ever further into the 21st Century, more and more Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers are finding themselves thrust into the role of primary caregiver to their ailing and aging parents. Such a situation is challenging enough even under the best of circumstances, but what if the person who needs taking care of was never a loving and nurturing parent to begin with, or the middle-aged child has more than enough problems on his own plate to deal with? This is the dilemma faced by John and Wendy Savage, a brother and sister who have long been estranged from the father who left them when they were youngsters but who has now come back into their lives after he can no longer take care of himself. Despite the fact that the siblings feel little emotional attachment to their father, they agree to do the decent thing by caring for him in his final days, even though his dementia makes it nearly impossible for them to heal old wounds or build a filial bridge between them.

    Meanwhile, John and Wendy, both unmarried and childless, aren't exactly what one would call models of highly functional and successful adults in their own right. John is a theater professor and part-time author who lives in a shabby Buffalo apartment with a girl from Poland who is being deported because John, commitment-phobic that he is, can't bring himself to marry her. Wendy is an unsuccessful playwright who pays the bills with temp jobs and has been carrying on a dead-end affair with a married man for years.

    "The Savages" works on a dual level, exposing the grim realities of aging, while at the same time exploring the complexities of familial (i.e. parent-child and sibling) relationships. The strain on everyone caught in this type of a predicament can be devastating and overwhelming, and writer/director Tamara Jenkins examines the situation from all angles. John and Wendy have an understandable urge to live their own lives, and they feel ill-equipped to cope with this new burden that has been suddenly placed upon them. The situation also opens up old wounds related to their upbringing and heightens their own feelings of inadequacy and failure. John and Wendy are also not above turning against one another when the world gets to be a bit too much for them to handle, wounding each other with verbal thrusts and jabs carefully aimed at their various weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

    The subject matter is obviously dark and brooding, but the filmmakers inject a surprising amount of biting, whistling-past-the-graveyard humor to help lighten the load. They are also helped in this regard by the rich and engaging performances of its three leading actors. Philip Seymour Hoffman is remarkably quiet and subdued in his role of John, the more cynical of the two children who feels a little less guilt-ridden about doing the minimum for a man who never took on the very role of paternal caregiver to his children that they are assuming for him. As the father, Philip Bosco rises to the difficult challenge of portraying a man who's lost much of his ability to connect with the world around him. But it is Laura Linney who provides the warm human center that lifts the movie above the dreary nature of its material. It is Wendy who struggles most with doing what is right by trying to make the last days of a man who abandoned her as comfortable as possible. In her every word and gesture, Linney shows that she understands the paradoxical nature of the character she is being called on to play, revealing her weaknesses and vulnerabilities, while, at the same time, showing her to be a woman of strength and character, even if she has trouble displaying much of either of those qualities in her own life. In fact, we sense that Wendy does quite a bit of growing up in the course of her struggles. Wendy may hate her father for never being there for her and her brother, but she knows maturity means moving beyond one's bitterness over the past and responding to the basic humanity of even the most undeserving among us.

    What I like about "The Savages" is that it doesn't devolve into angst-ridden hand-wringing or self-aggrandizing melodramatics in dealing with its topic. Instead, in this her fifth film as a director, Jenkins illuminates a difficult subject with subtlety, insight and compassion. Definitely one worth seeing.
  • javold28 December 2007
    Warning: Spoilers
    I am at a loss as to what to say about this movie. I feel like an old man with a blinded in the headlight stare. No, that's not it. I feel like I'm stuck in a middle-age rut. No, that's not it either. I feel like my ficus plant has died and it's not my fault. No? How about this: My dad treated me terribly, but at least he didn't completely abandon me like my mom. My sister is a liar who needs a good chewing out. My brother is a self-absorbed slob. My girlfriend's visa has expired. My cat is stuck under the couch. My dog is getting old. Sex has lost all excitement.

    I was forewarned that this film would be depressing, but even a sad film, if it brings you to tears or thoughts too deep for tears, can have merit. But this one never did it for me. For a better institution film, see Diving Bell and the Butterfly. For better old age moments, see Albert Finney in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. For a better father-daughter movie, see Sweeney Todd. And if death and dying is your thing, check out No Country for Old Men.

    I was also lured in on the premise that at least this film would have good acting. Except that it didn't, really. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, consistently a good chameleon actor, was better this year in both Charlie Wilson's War and Before the Devil; he made the most of a couple of scenes in this film, but overall he never really got to show the full shades of his character. Meanwhile, Laura Linney's performance was only slightly less shallow than the way her character was written: one should have plenty to work with in a pill-popping, confidence-lacking, lonely hearted guilt-ridden daughter/sister/mistress, but between the writing and the acting her character was still pretty sketchy.

    Finally, the director chose a plodding pace to get us to the inevitable end. All right, I did not really expect the final final ending, but that was still a small payoff for a long movie.
  • Any film that features Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman is certainly worth seeing, and the acting in "The Savages" is excellent, not only by Linney and Hoffman but by Philip Bosco who plays their father, Lenny, an elderly man suffering from dementia. The story line - - two grown children facing the task of caring for a failing parent -- is all too familiar in real life, and anyone who's been through it knows how emotionally wrenching it can be. The complication here is that both children feel that they were mistreated by their father during childhood.

    Jon, Hoffman's character, a drama professor is less devastated by the reality, though perhaps not by the memory. Wendy, Linney's character, is torn apart by both. There's another story line as well. Jon has just been separated from his long time girl friend, a Polish drama teacher whose visa has expired. Wendy, who's been trying to write a play about her childhood trauma and seeking a grant to permit her to do so, is having sex with an older married man (more at his convenience than hers).

    But the story is mainly about their search for a nursing home that will have their father. (Wendy would prefer a beautiful space that offers "assisted living" which her father can no longer manage.) And after they've found the nursing home, they have to cope with their father's demented behavior and their own emotional states. After Lenny dies, the script seeks a hopeful but unconvincing resolution. The brief, uncertain up-tick at the end does not make this film any less of a downer. But the acting is superb. It's to be expected of Linney and Hoffman. Though it's not likely that many viewers will have noticed Bosco before, he's been an excellent stage actor and, in some ways, his may be the most impressive performance of the three.
  • The advantage of writer/director Tamara Jenkins's deadpan cynicism is that it cools the audience into being completely comfortable with the story even during its least comfortable moments. Her dry-as-cardboard attitude is the key to the film's succeeding without alienating any kind of broad audience. The film is set in Buffalo, with some brief moments in the retirement communities of Florida's superficially charming waiting room of death. The two main characters, played by two of the greatest actors working right now, are not only everyday sorts in terms of their occupations as unsuccessful playwright and theater professor drudging through a book on a forgotten literary icon, but are also similar enough in their occupations to infer the sharing of interests and pursuits that fueled the by-gone good times of their sibling relationship they might've had in the past.

    While the movie is quite funny, it doesn't spare the viewer anything, something that is incredibly admirable, especially for a breakthrough film for its filmmaker. The two siblings, begrudging each other, come together for the questionable but accepted task of putting their father, who is going senile, in the most suitable nursing home. But neither of them are close with him because he was quite a terrible father. There is no real sunny side to their lives, which they must painstakingly reevaluate because of what they face. Yet we delight in the comfort of a film so down to earth, disillusioned, and mature and alive enough through its wryness to find congruence with humor.

    The oustanding highlights of The Savages are the two lead performances by Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who are so self-aware and realistic that one can't help but directly connect them with the characters they are playing. The sibling relationship they portray is one of the most endearing and natural that I've seen since Raging Bull, yet with Linney and Hoffman, there are times when something is funny but not initially designed for the audience to laugh, but for the two of them to unexpectedly laugh together despite whatever may have been happening seconds before, and thus we laugh, not out of the same situational amusement because of what we as the audience are in on that the character are not, but out of the teary sweetness and relation we feel.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    A pair of never married, middle-aged siblings Jon Savage(Philip Seymour Hoffman)and his sister Wendy(Laura Linney)must put aside their own uncomfortable and unsentimental lives to work together to deal with their estranged father Lenny(Philip Bosco)and his dementia. Brother and sister are forced to care for their unpleasant father and both being new to compassion themselves place Lenny in a nursing home. Life seems dark and mundane. Wintertime in Buffalo, New York makes the story bleaker. It seems none of the three are happy unless they are miserable. Hoffman and Linney work well together, both providing some dark comedy to a sensitive subject. You really have to be in the right mood to enjoy this one. Kudos to writer and director Tamara Jenkins.
  • rlipton15 January 2008
    Warning: Spoilers
    there was nothing "value added" artistically by the this movie, good acting per the usual, some good writing, particularly towards the beginning, otherwise, it seems like all concerned thought that the fact of an old man dying slowly with Alzheimers was enough, most reviewers here think so too, and to be clear, "Away from her" was a wonderful movie, lots of strange and unexpected things going on. This was predictable, including "feces" ink, and frankly great art isn't, good craft is, paintings that match your sofa, for example, this was simply a bummer, wanted to walk out. The fact that I know way too much about nursing homes doesn't help, but I was willing to set that aside given the acting talent on display, but the talent couldn't save this movie. Again, to be clear, I'm fine with movies about people dealing with getting old, dying etc, "Wit" was magnificent, but this fell short, or to failed to achieve escape velocity.
  • This is the story of a brother and sister dealing with the mental deterioration of their father. Tamara Jenkins (who wrote the screenplay) must certainly have gone through such an experience; you are spared no details. If seeing a man writing on a bathroom wall with his own excrement is more than you want to see, then perhaps this movie is not for you.

    But the main thrust of the story involves the relationship between the siblings. Such an intense situation is bound to bring out raw emotions dating back to childhood, and we see that here.

    This is maybe the most realistic movie I have ever seen. As in life, when experiencing such highly charged moments you tend to notice the most insignificant things and "The Savages" emphasizes that. Things like the rustle of a nurse's skirt or the sound of a door closing.

    Be aware that if you have ever gone through something like what is detailed here, then the movie will provoke painful memories. That my be cathartic or it may be of comfort to realize the commonality of such experiences, but it may just leave you with difficult memories.

    Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney both turn in quality performances.

    Another movie with a similar theme that is equally as good, or better, is "I Never Sang for My Father," with Gene Hackman and Melvyn Douglas.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I found The Savages interesting but not compelling. It centers on a brother and sister, both clearly socially challenged. Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) is a 39-year-old writer who lives in New York City, works temp to pay the bills, and is trying to get grant money with which to complete a play. She is in a passionless affair with a 52-year-old married man, Larry, (Peter Friedman) with no prospect of a real relationship in sight. Jon Savage (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) is a professor of literature at a Buffalo college, writing a book about humor in Brecht. His Polish girlfriend, Kasia, (Cara Seymour) is returning home as her visa has expired, yet he does not seem at all touched by this. In a faux-idyllic Sun City, Arizona, their father, Lenny, (Phillip Bosco in a compelling performance) is living with his girlfriend in her home in the retirement community. He has begun experiencing symptoms of dementia. When his girlfriend dies, her kids kick him out and force the Savage sibs to cope.

    Frequent mention is made of what a bad father Lenny had been, but we are given little detail. Occasional mention is made of their mother abandoning them. They did not become dysfunctional without some help. What to do with dad, who suffers from dementia and bouts of rage? They place him in a depressing nursing home. Wendy dreams of a nicer place for him, but when he is brought there for an interview it is clear that he is not functional enough to meet their requirements. And it is not clear how Wendy and Jon would be able to pay for it in any case.

    This movie is a character study of the sibs with a look at how Americans deal with aging and death. Jon gives a speech in which he holds forth on how the whole nursing home presentation of beauty and comfort is nothing more than an attempt to prey on the guilt of the families of the elderly. Inside they are all the same, he says, places of death. The sibs argue over the care of their father, at times with him present. You can see dad giving up all desire to persist. There are some lovely moments. Wendy befriends one of her father's caretakers, Jimmy (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and lets her hair down to him. He shows much-needed appreciation for her work and teaches her about a key thing that happens to all patients who are about to die. Wendy's cat stays at the nursing home with dad for a bit, and is there when his toes curl. There are occasional uncomfortable laughs. Jon's diatribe about nursing homes being places of death is overheard by a passerby in a wheel-chair. Lenny's choice of classic film leads to a very uncomfortable exit for the sibs. But, while laughs are few and far between here, The Savages has a much more upbeat ending than one might suspect, as the characters all show growth. Wendy has learned to nurture and is moving forward in her work; Jon is taking an active role in his relationship with Kasia. Even Lenny decides to stop bitching and move on.

    Linney might get an Oscar nomination for her work here. She is completely convincing as a socially challenged middle-ager who has been fending off reality and responsibility for a long time. Her portrayal rings very, very true. Phillip Bosco is riveting as the demented Lenny.

    As an aside, I quite enjoyed the soundtrack, which effectively underscored the goings on.

    Beyond that, re content, I did get the sense that there were levels to this film that I was missing, Neanderthal that I am, and am looking forward to the brighter lights here to illuminate them.
  • In Sun City, Arizona, the grumpy Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco) has dementia and lives with his mate Doris Metzger (Rosemary Murphy). His son Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a professor of drama in Buffalo that is writing a book about Bertold Brecht. His daughter Wendy (Laura Linney) is a thirty-nine year-old freelancer and aspirant writer of screenplays for theater that lives in New York and has an affair with the middle-aged married man Larry (Peter Friedman). Wendy and Jon are estranged from their abusive father but when Doris dies, the siblings travel to the funeral and are surprised by her family that informs that Lenny must leave the house. Wendy and Jon bring Lenny to Buffalo and leave him in a nursing home. Along the days, they visit their father and try to improve his life.

    "The Savages" is a pointless, unpleasant and bitter drama of dementia, family responsibilities and end of life. The performance of the charming Laura Linney and the outstanding Philip Seymour Hoffman are top-notch but the subject of this film is not attractive and Philip Bosco performs a non-charismatic character and when he dies in the end, the viewer feels absolute indifference. My vote is six.

    Title (Brazil): "A Família Savage" ("The Savage Family")
  • The things I didn't like about the film are a bit picky. I really enjoyed this movie though it was so depressing it made me want to kill myself at the end. I have had to deal with the loss of both my parents and The Savages is a very deft depiction worthy of acclaim. Yet at the same time there is something that happens when writers become directors: they fall in love with every word they write.

    There are many scenes that should have ended earlier or been taken out. The movie is less than two hours but it feels like it goes on for four. Editors are usually too afraid to give their directors the truth when something needs to be cut.

    While the performances were very strong from both PSH and LL. Laura Linney was at times a bit shrill and it didn't help her character who was walking a tightrope with the audience anyway. The chemistry as brother and sister on screen between the actors is wonderfully played and my hats go off to them. Strong performance from Philip Bosco as well.

    Worth your time, if you have it to spare.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Philip Seymour Hoffman, upon whom I once drunkenly spilled my whiskey, and Laura Linney, upon whom I would like to spill my highest compliments, are the most dependably accessible of performers. I am consistently charmed by them, even when they're playing assholes, as here. Performers of this caliber can make any moment work. But this movie starts to repeat itself within a half hour, and by the 90th minute it's just babbling.

    Philip Bosco steals the movie, actually, with a central performance of immense breadth and focus, but his character is so depressing that it outstrips the combined impact of every other element of production. The film sags into the bleak hole of its very TV documentary-ness. There are no new insights into this very big issue, and the surviving characters' magical, marginal progressions at the tail end of what should have been a third act are hopelessly unconnected to the rest of the film. Tamara Jenkins pulled the plug on her own movie.
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