This Isn’t Therapy. It’s Real Life.

28 Dec

In The Savages, John and Wendy Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney) have the unenviable task of putting their estranged father (Philip Bosco) in a nursing home. You might think that would make for a depressing movie, and make no mistake, The Savages is no Superbad or anything (despite what the trailer might imply), but writer/director Tamara Jenkins has found a way to turn this ordinary situation that so many must go through into one we can all sympathize with, wringing some genuine laughs from a painful situation. John and Wendy are themselves distant — one lives in New York City and the other up in Buffalo — but when they come together in Arizona to learn what’s become of their father (who was abusive earlier, thus one reason why they’re estranged from him), it’s clear they have a tight bond. These are not terribly happy characters, but they have each other and you get the sense that they are better people when they’re together.

In the lead roles, both Hoffman and Linney make very strong impressions. For Hoffman in particular, it’s his third great performance in one year (the others being Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and Charlie Wilson’s War). The Savages doesn’t really have a plot other than the basic premise of John and Wendy dealing with their dad’s dementia, and after a while I got a little antsy waiting for the film to reach its natural conclusion, but it’s Hoffman and Linney who makes The Savages worth seeing. I’m giving this one a strong B.

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