The Savages


Directed by: Tamara Jenkins
Written by:Tamara Jenkins
Starring: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman, David Zayas
Released: July 24, 2008
Grade: A-

Each year, I compile a list of my top 10 favourite actors and actress.  You can look at these lists in the “columns” section of my website if you’d like to know more.  Since 2005, the same two people have been top of these lists – Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney.  They’re awesome!  Even though they’ve been in a tonne of great movies, The Savages marks the first time they’ve appeared together.

Jon and Wendy Savage are a middle-aged brother and sister.  Jon (Hoffman) is a professor of philosophy living in Buffalo.  Wendy (Linney) is a playwright living in New York City.  Neither of them appears to be very happy.  Their jobs are going nowhere and both are involved in complicated relationships.  Over time, they have slowly drifted apart.

Their regular lives are put on hold when they learn their elderly father, Lenny (Bosco), needs help.  He is suffering from dementia and has found himself with nowhere to live.  Jon and Wendy have never been close to their dad and aren’t particularly enthusiastic about the situation they now find themselves in.  They’ve got better things to do.

It’s a depressing subject matter but one that many people will be able to relate to – to have to care and look after a dying parent.  Jon and Wendy have trouble finding a decent nursing home that has places available and which is also affordable.  They also have to ask their father difficult questions such as whether he wants to be buried or cremated.

These events stir deep-seeded emotions in both Jon and Wendy.  Having spent years trying to distance themselves, they now find themselves drawn back into the “family”.  They will be forced to confront issues that they have long suppressed.

It’s heavy going at times but there are also a lot of funny scenes in The Savages.  Jon and Wendy are quirky characters and it’s no surprise that Hoffman and Linney were attracted to the role.  At times, you’ll laugh at them.  At other times, you’ll sympathise with them.  Writer-director Tamara Jenkins deserves credit for her script.  It earned her an Academy Award nomination earlier this year for best original screenplay (losing out to Juno).  Linney also picked up a nomination for best actress.

The title is a little misleading (it makes the movie sound like a cheap thriller) but I can assure you that this a quality film that comes highly recommended.