Directed by: Tamara Jenkins
Premise: A pair of middle aged siblings (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) face their familial responsibilities when their father (Phillip Bosco) suffers from dementia.
What Works: Like Juno, The Savages carves its own niche in between comedy and drama, finding the humor in deeply serious circumstances. While this film falls more heavily on the dramatic side, it uses humor to lighten the mood. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are terrific in their roles as a pair of siblings trying to reconcile their responsibilities to their ailing father. Linney gets the better material as the sibling with the biggest trouble with her love life and the most inner conflict over placing her father in a nursing home. The script links the personal and professional problems of these siblings to their strained relationship with their father; Linney’s character has a romantic relationship with a married man and Hoffman’s character has a slovenly lifestyle and as each of them confronts their father they are forced to reevaluate their own lives. The dialogue of the film is sharp and gives the characters an intelligence and world-weariness that plays well. The picture takes on the themes maturation and middle age without falling into traps of sentimentality or cliché.
What Doesn’t: The Savages is more somber than expected and a few of the narrative strands are left unresolved, namely the love life of Linney’s character. This actually helps the film, making it more like Garden State, but some viewers may be frustrated by the lack of a resolution.
Bottom Line: The Savages is a solid film that does not easily fit into dramatic or comedic categories, but its place between the two niches makes it more honest and unique than if it were completely somber.
Episode: #193 (June 15, 2008)