The Savages [DVD] 
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Bittersweet comedy about a simmering sibling rivalry that's brought into focus when a brother and sister have to deal with their father's increasing dementia. The success of her writer brother Jon (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) increases the low self-esteem felt by struggling playwright Wendy Savage (Laura Linney). But the sudden death of their abusive father's girlfriend, just after he starts displaying signs of dementia, forces the pair to try and put aside their differences, as they struggle to come to terms with their father's condition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Like many people in real life, there is no simple resolution, no uplifting revelation, no emergence: they just move on to the next struggle, with some hope. It is that that makes this a first rate film, that it can be believed and experienced - and it certainly reflects what most of us know at one time or another.
Hoffman and Linney are absolutely wonderful. Their relationship is difficult and you can feel the tension that continues, even though the details are only alluded to rather than spelled out. You simply feel for them, you don't judge them or laugh at them. It is realism at its very very best. Individually, their lives are also not easy, but to say they are losers or crippled like some reviewers have here is an over-statement: like many of us, they are wounded and doing the best they can.
Then there is the father, whose behavior and sins are only to be guessed. He is a shell of a man, sometimes lucid, sometimes slipping into the kind of evil you suspect he perpetrated. Yet they still feel some love and caring for him and take their responsibilities seriously. It is a painful spectacle, but very real.
Recommended. This is a splendid journey into areas rarely covered by film, without frills or silly plot twists.
This is the story of this movie, anyone who went through similar situation will sympathize with the acting and words of the main actors here. This is not a typical US movie, I would rather call it "European": acting is minimalistic, the insight is maximum - as typical of Sundance production.
Highly recommended, but do not expect to have a fun viewing.
This eventually inescapable but normally avoided subject is treated with honesty, intelligence and mild humour by writer and director Tamara Jenkins who apparantly draws from her own experience.
Having been very close to an elderly relative who suffered dementia and involved in the guilt ridden, heart-wrenching decisions that go with taking control of another person's life - many of the scenarios, characters and settings were deeply familiar to me. However I was even able to chuckle and see the funny side to a lot of the plot and although it brough up feelings and memories it was a chance to validate and re-evaluate. More saddening to me than the decline of the elderly father was the unfulfilling lives being led by the early middle aged children, who had so much life left to live.
The subject may be a bit close to the bone for anyone with an infirm or elderly parent but for me it was a chance to look it in the face and smile at the lighter side of the inescapable.
And if you like this - you must watch Away From Her.
It stars the outstanding actress, daughter of American theatre nobility, Laura Linney, (The Big C - Season 1 ), who was deservedly nominated for an Oscar in her role here as the annoying Wendy Savage. Multi-award winning Philip Seymour Hoffman, (Capote ), is her underachieving brother Jon. Philip Bosco, (The Money Pit [DVD],My Best Friend's Wedding ), costars as their aging, going into dementia dad Lenny, who abused them when he had the chance. Life hasn't treated this brother and sister as they would wish - they're a long way from achieving their dreams - and suddenly they find they must put their preoccupations aside to look after their father. The acting, individual and ensemble, is excellent: first timer Jenkins has done very well with her well-known cast. Even supporting parts are crisply written.
The settings, sun washed Sun City Arizona, and dreary snow-muted winter Buffalo, New York, which can be a pretty city when not buried in snow, are very well-done. Unfortunately, in the last ten minutes of the film, the writer/director finds it necessary to come up with a happy Hollywood ending for virtually all her characters, even the nonhuman ones, vitiating any sting the movie might have had.
But from my point of view, it was very hard to find fault with The Savages. For me, this film was pitch perfect and perfectly sublime in its mix of humour, sadness and sense of futility. This film will find fans in those people who prefer watching films of a more intimate and character-based nature.
And what great character performances there are from Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who are both fantastic and Tamara Jenkins has written and directed in a manner that lets these two talents shine wonderfully, even though they are both playing emotionally repressed characters whose lives are in danger of stalling in a middle-aged mire.
As I said before, there is a great mix of humour and sadness in this film, the best example of which is when Laura Linney is having an argument with her older married lover in a Niagra Falls motel room about the definition of a younger woman and whether or not she would qualify as one. Whilst this scene is wickedly funny, at the same time, it highlights the sadness that Linney's character feels at this juncture in her life.
You may get the impression of The Savages being the best Mike Leigh film that Leigh hasn't made, but that would perhaps be too simplistic. Whilst you can draw comparisions with Leigh's films, The Savages is sufficently infused with a particular brand of humour and downbeat sensibility to be a film that has simply been transplanted from suburban London to upstate New York.
The Savages was my personal favourite film of 2008 and I hope it finds a wide and receptive audience on DVD for many years to come.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I didn't find anything sad in this film. Indeed it was the height of civilisation. Unlike in pre-civilised or backward undeveloped cultures or stages of humanity (the sort we are... Read morePublished 12 months ago by david
Extraordinary tale of two siblings thrust into caring for a parent with dementia. An education on how lives have to change when caring comes into it.Published 17 months ago by The Cool Cookie
I bought this after hearing about the death of the late great Philip Seymour Hoffman .To me he was the character he played , not just an actor playing his part ,as were all of his... Read morePublished on 30 Mar. 2014 by DONNA WHITE
this is a great film and interesting to see what family dynamics can go through. Both characters have their certain dysfuntions and innapropriate behaviours. Read morePublished on 1 Jan. 2010 by Dogs best friend