Best Movies of All Time + Tamara Jenkins



The Savages is a 2007 dramatic film directed by Tamara Jenkins. It centers around two siblings' struggle with their elderly father's failing health. When Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) receives a phone call saying that her father Lenny (Philip Bosco) is suffering from dementia and an early onset of Parkinson's disease and will soon be out of his home in Arizona, she calls her brother Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and the two make the trek to relocate Lenny to New York. The siblings move him into a nursing home near Jon's home in Buffalo, where Wendy temporarily takes residence with her brother. She starts to question whether this nursing home is the best for Lenny and starts to search for higher-scale options, leading to a number of confrontations between brother and sister as they try to cope with the fact that their father's life is slowing slipping away.

I've known about this movie ever since it's initial limited run in theaters back in 2007, but I never had the opportunity to see it at that time. At the time, it looked like the dramatic comedy hit of the year - even with Juno being released around the same time. And the story (in an Oscar-nominated original screenplay) holds up quite well, actually. It's a deeply emotional tale that really gives you a sense of the struggle that Jon and Wendy face in the final days of their father's life. However, I did have a couple of issues concerning the storyline, but they probably fit more under the style of direction. First, I didn't really see the comedy aspect that's played so well within the trailer. In my opinion, The Savages plays more like a straight drama rather than a dramatic comedy. To compare it to Juno (if only because it came out at the same time), I just didn't see the humor. Maybe it was too black of humor for my tastes. I just saw the pain and emotional turmoil that the characters were facing. That leads me to issue two: although I saw the pain and emotion, I didn't feel it. In a movie like this, you have to feel some sort of connection to the characters to make it redeeming, and I just couldn't get into their mindset.

That's not to say that it was the actors' fault; it's rather the opposite. The cast is stellar, led by the Oscar-nominated Laura Linney and former Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman. I could go on and on about the accolades they deserve for their performances - Hoffman probably should have been nominated as well - but I think they're performances and their careers speak for themselves. However, I think special note should be made towards Philip Bosco who plays the ill-fated elderly man to perfection. While his children struggle and fight each other tooth and nail, we see the inner turmoil he's having as he begins to realize that the end is coming soon. There's one particular scene that perfectly accentuates this: while driving, Jon and Wendy get into a massive argument while a silent Lenny sits in the passenger seat. He slowly turns his head to look out the window and casually turns the volume on his hearing aid down as the slightest hint of water fills his eyes. The camera then pans outside as the car passes a cemetery. It's a rather brilliant scene, and the subtlety of the moment for Bosco is astounding.

As much of an issue as I had with the screenplay and the overall direction, this is still a very good film that's worth your time. Maybe you'll be able to grab some of the emotion more than I was able to, and it may be a more satisfying experience if you can. If anything, watch it for the performances of our three leads. I know you'll be satisfied with those.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: B+
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2007, comedy, drama, Laura Linney, movie review, Oscar nom, Philip Bosco, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Savages, and more:

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