Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Savages

The Savages (Tamara Jenkins, 2007) [7]

Give Jenkins credit for not turning this material into sympathetic schmaltz and handling the issue of the mental deterioration of a parent with some cold realism. Of course it's easy in doing that to make the film a continuous bummer and yet again, Jenkins carefully handles her situations and characters with enough thought and humor to make it all go down a little easier. Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman play siblings who end up having to care for their ailing father, who they have been estranged for for most of their adult lives. Both are people so wrapped up in all their personal misery and problems that having to care for a man that both of them don't care much for is that it creates the central conflict. The problems of their father let both characters to vent their personal issues with each other, which is done with enough wit and laughs to keep both Linney and Hoffman lively. They both play sad-sacks and it could have easily been a display of full-on loathing and a depression that is all too often done to death in independent film. What works is that these characters, no matter how much they might want to not care about a man that they feel didn't care enough for them, is that they actually do. It's these poignant moments crafted by Jenkins that gives the film it's heart when it could have easily all heart, overly sentimental, or distanced and snarky, afraid to deal with the issue at hand. Philip Bosco, as the dementia-addled father, helps this because his actions and dialogue interject the sibling bickering and remind them, as well as the viewer, what the real crux of the film comes down to. The Savages is a powerful film in spots, with the ending feeling a little disjointed in terms of emotions from the rest of the film, but overall it paints a fairly true picture of an issue few films would want to seriously deal with.

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