Film Review: The Savages
Tamara Jenkins' first feature, 1998's Slums of Beverly Hills was a (great) comedy about a family that was poor financially but rich socially. They might have been forced to move from "luxury" apartment to apartment in and around Beverly Hills in their facade of upper middle class-ness, but their foundation never foundered. They loved and cared for each other, and it showed. With her latest feature (what took so long?), The Savages, we find a family that might have WASPy intellectual children, but they are bankrupt when it comes to family values. Though brother Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and sister Wendy (Laura Linney) are close, they haven't spoken to their Sun City residing father in years, and their mother (though alive) doesn't seem to be in the picture at all. So imagine their dismay and confusion when the siblings are called to Arizona to look after their dementia-ridden father, who can't take care of himself and doesn't have the means or the know how to get someone else to do it for him. Thus begins a journey that none of them wanted to take, filled with struggles over responsiblity and maturity that even "kids" in their forties aren't ready to handle. It almost goes without saying that the acting is stellar. Neither Linney nor Hoffman seem capable of giving a bad performance at this stage in their careers, and they play quite well with each other, even when they're fighting. Meanwhile, Philip Bosco, as their father Lenny, is alternatively hilarious and heartbreaking. The film is a roller coaster of emotions, finding humor in the darkest of times, with Jenkins never pandering or patronizing the audience. She knows that, just as in life, comedy is sometimes the best way to deal with tragedy, and sometimes the only way. Wendy and Jon basically turn their lives upside down, all for a man they never really knew, and one that they felt never cared for them as much as they are caring for him now. They grow, they learn more about themselves and each other, and we all feel what it's like to go through this situation, That might sound sappy, but it's really not. And the ending? Beautiful - let's just say it almost got a little dusty in the theater. Almost.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.