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UPDATE: Having now gone through the additional and special features on the DVD, I also wanted to say that they are not just simple "add ons" but help add perspective to this film. The actors speak about the fact the complexities of family relationships and Seymour-Hoffman adds his take (which can also be seen here on Amazon's own snippet from the film for now) that it isn't normal for children to be estranged from a parent. In this case, the children of a very difficult father are alienated from him.
The film struck home for me because I'm helping to care for two relatives, both elderly, one in a nursing home. Trust me, I know authenticity when it comes to catching the dynamics of family relationships, dealing with an elderly parent and all the issues that come into play. Even in the best of situations, there are tough days. Aging can go down hard and mental and physical decline, as portrayed so aptly in this film, isn't easy to watch.
Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney are also excellent as brother and sister who have their own struggles with facing reality and dealing with an imperfect father. They have their own flawed and difficult lives and then, suddenly, they have total responsibility for their father, who is left without the girlfriend or backup support that the siblings thought was there. Now what?
That is the plot, in short. Hoffman manages to be clumsy but engaging, a trait he seems to have made into an art form in many films.Read more ›
The general problem is generic, the individual circumstances vary according to our situation in life. Money helps. A functional family life helps. Benevolent geography helps.
Linney and Hoffman are among the best contemporary actors, and they give us two people with enough problems of their own, who didn't need a demented father dropping from the sky on them, which happens due to the death of his life partner. They are siblings from a 'dysfunctional' family, the father had disappeared from their life for 20 years, he is remembered as unloving and abusive, and he does behave in a way that one would not want to meet him in real life. His 'kids' are struggling middle aged intellectuals, with pityful emotional lives, but still hopeful for improvement. (You get to hear Hoffman sing a Brecht song in German; consider this a bonus.)
Some underdeveloped mind had classified this film as a 'comedy'. That was what we expected when we started watching the film, but we soon realized how far off that label is. I mention this because it gives a good contrast to one of the strong features of the film and of its characters: there is a sense of humor in the midst of sadness. The Savages definitely would have deserved at least 2 acting award nominations at the last Oscars.
Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) is a frustrated unpublished playwright working as a temp, a bright woman whose insecurities limit her emotional activity to an affair with a 'safe' married man Larry (Peter Friedman). Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman), her older brother, is a professor of philosophy who is writing a book on the theater of the absurd of Bertolt Brecht while living in Buffalo with a Polish woman, Kasia (Cara Seymour), who, because Jon does not wish to commit to marriage, is forcing his only emotional tie to return to Poland when her Visa expires. Wendy and Jon were deserted by their mother at an early age, left in the care of their abusive father Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco), and both siblings have distanced themselves from their father now living in Sun City, Arizona with his girlfriend of twenty years. Lenny's girlfriend dies and the signs of Lenny's rapidly encroaching dementia force Wendy and Jon to fly to Arizona to 'make arrangements' for their demented father. Coming together under duress the two siblings are forced to confront their own frustrations together with the realities of placing Lenny in a nursing home.Read more ›
The siblings have never been particularly close, but they are reluctantly thrown together when their elderly father, Leonard Savage, is ejected from the Sun City, Arizona retirement home where he sponged off his girlfriend for years. Leonard is becoming forgetful and agitated, and the two younger Savages must decide what to do for a father who abused and neglected them. Jon dutifully arranges for Leonard to be placed in a decent enough facility in Buffalo, but Wendy is so upset by her father's decline that she unfairly lashes out at her brother. As the weeks pass, the two try to put their rancor aside and begin to empathize with one another. They also start to realize that there is a statute of limitations on blaming your parents for everything that is wrong with your life.
Tamara Jenkins nicely balances humor and poignancy in a film that is moving but never schmaltzy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great acting. Real life story. I have seen it more than once.Published 5 days ago by shirley b brenner
I didn't find anything sad in this film or moving for that matter. Indeed it was the height of civilisation. Read morePublished 6 months ago by david
One of the best movies I've ever seen. Excellent acting and writing.Published 6 months ago by Jean Johns
I can’t imagine anyone loving this movie! It shows us what everyone knows may happen if you live long enough but in a very nice way. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Jen Jen
I saw the previews on another movie and it looked good. I was somewhat disappointed. It seems all the good lines were in the preview. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Lisa
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