Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Savages

Wednesday at the TGE's house was Philip Seymour Hoffman day. Inadvertantly or subconsciously, Netflix gave me 3 of his films at once. The first of which was a critically adored effort from writer/director Tamara Jenkins (The Slums of Beverly Hills) that didn't find an audience in theatres.

Linney plays Wendy the sister of Jon (Hoffman)that finds out their father's girlfriend has passed away. The father, Lenny (Phillip Bosco), had been living with her family for years and now they want him out. This forces the sibling back together when they have to travel to Arizona to get him. Lenny is unfortunately going through late life dementia and needs to be placed in a nursing home. The rest of the film is a character story of two underachievers. Wendy has never been able to have a healthy relationship and feels in the shadow of her brother. Jon has achieved a PHD, but hasn't ever really figured out life. The plot device of the father returning enables the two to deal with things they have been ignoring.

The Savages is at it's core a character study of two somewhat dysfunctional adults trying to grow up. Hoffman can do this role in his sleep and eats up this material with viracity. It is Linney that is given the juicier role here. Her character is very reminiscent of the role Nicole Kidman played in Margot at the Wedding. Wendy is just a Margot that never hit it big with a book or play. All the performances from the supporting characters are top notch. Phillip Bosco is somewhat of a revelation here in the eldery father role. Bosco is most known for playing heavies, lawyers, judges, etc is an off beat choice for this role, but shows at 77 he can still bring it.

I wasn't a big fan of Jenkin's first film The Slums of Beverly Hills. That film seemed to lack a heart and was terminally obsessed with quirkiness. I talked about that in my review of Juno a few months ago. Here in The Savages, there is a quirk here and there, but nothing that keeps you from believing that these could actually be real people in a real situation. And maybe for once we get an ending that seems real too.


* By the way, I love Laura Linney so you might have to deduct 10 from that score if you don't

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