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Overall Rating
3.5

Awesome: 3.13%
Worth A Look46.88%
Average46.88%
Pretty Bad: 3.13%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 8 user ratings


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Savages, The
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by William Goss

"Assisted Living"
4 stars

The shit has hit the fan (or, more accurately, the wall) as Tamara Jenkins’ semi-autobiographical coming-of-age dramedy, 'The Savages' – the writer-director’s follow-up to her 1998 semi-autobiographical coming-of-age dramedy, 'Slums of Beverly Hills' – opens.

John and Wendy Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney) soon receive a phone call – a literal wake-up call for him, more neurosis fuel for her – regarding the state of their father (Philip Bosco). He is being booted out of his long-time girlfriend’s home after she has passed away, and so the siblings must travel out to the warm wasteland that is Arizona in order to care for their ever-belligerent patriarch, at least until they can find someone else to. Only then John may return to his Bertolt Brecht book and fear of commitment, and Wendy can continue to scour for playwright grants by day and come home to her married neighbor (Peter Friedman) and his more compassionate canine at night, popping pills and telling fibs to get by.

While you might not expect to find a whole lot of comedic material in a story about two middle-aged malcontents shuffling their emotionally neglectful pop from nursing home to nursing home, Hoffman and Linney manage to wring a commendable amount of comedic and familiar nuance out of the admittedly dour proceedings. Making it increasingly easy to take both of their talents for granted, it’s to their further credit that they draw out the hope and humanity amidst it all, helped in no small part by the devastatingly grounded work by Bosco as his dementia ravages on and the greater brunt of his insensitive nature comes to light (although never fully).

The cast’s performances are so effective and Jenkins’ writing so insightful that her direction remains tacitly observant. The walls of a nursing home are adorned by maxims such as “Each day is a new beginning,” when in reality, every other room in the building finds people all meeting the same miserable end, a fact that John harshly brings to his sister’s attention for all her misguided concerns. A variety of incidents – an inadvertently callous screening of their father’s favorite film, a balloon on the wrong occasion, the hunt for a missing pillow – elicit their share of cringes, but never out of spite for the characters, merely their struggle. In a particularly striking moment alongside his bickering offspring, Lenny for once opts to be with his children without necessarily being with them. The toasty environs of Sun City give way to the harsh cold of Buffalo, plants and relationships wither, and the logical end of things only continues to loom. Regardless of whether or not the Savages want to love each other, or even can, they find themselves facing an inevitable fate together.

It’s this truth that Jenkins likely came to terms with herself and that her film faces head-on. As John mentions, this isn’t a Sam Shepard play, and contrary to what John and Wendy’s names might indicate, this isn’t Neverland either. This is real life in its bittersweet glory; go ahead and laugh. It’s easier than the alternative.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15690&reviewer=409
originally posted: 12/16/07 12:24:29
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2007 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2007 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

1/10/10 MP Bartley Indie by numbers, but Linney and PSH are reliably superb. 3 stars
12/16/09 Lala couldn't get into this for some reason, but not bad 3 stars
1/16/09 Shaun Wallner Wonderful story. 4 stars
1/13/09 Anonymous. i couldn't really identify with the characters that well. :/ 3 stars
12/16/08 gc Good dramatic character study, and makes you think about life too 4 stars
7/19/08 jcjs33 wonderful 5 stars
1/26/08 proper amateur film critic well constructed drama but with a repugnant moral 2 stars
12/29/07 Louis It is what is going on in today's world, between families and commitment. Very realistic. 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  28-Nov-2007 (R)
  DVD: 22-Apr-2008

UK
  N/A

Australia
  24-Jul-2008




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