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The Savages

4.1 out of 5 stars 182 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The last thing the two Savage siblings ever wanted to do was look back on their undeniably dysfunctional family legacy. Wendy (Academy Award nominee Laura Linney) is a self medicating struggling East Village playwright, AKA a temp who spends her days applying for grants and stealing office supplies, dating her very married neighbor. Jon (Academy Award winner Philip Seymour Hoffman) is an obsessive compulsive college professor writing obscure books on even more obscure subjects in Buffalo who still can't commit to his girlfriend after four years even though her cooking brings him tears of joy. Then, out of the blue, comes the call that changes everything - the call that informs them that the father they have long feared and avoided, Lenny Savage (Tony Award winner Philip Bosco), has lost his marbles. And there is no one to help him but his kids. Now, as they put the middle of their already arrested lives on hold, Wendy and Jon are forced to live together under one roof for the first time since childhood, soon rediscovering the eccentricities that drove each other crazy. Faced with complete upheaval and the ultimate sibling rivalry battle over how to handle their father's final days, they are forced to face the past and finally start to realize what adulthood, family and, most surprisingly, each other are really about.


It's almost impossible to describe The Savages in a way that makes it sound as richly engaging and enjoyable as it is. The story sounds bleak: Two unhappy siblings--Wendy (Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me) and Jon Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote)--are forced to grapple with their dying father (Philip Bosco, Damages) as he slips into dementia. But this spare outline doesn't capture the wealth of human detail that the script and performances contain. Linney and Hoffman vividly portray the sort of cluttered, precarious relationship that brothers and sisters can have, thick with past grievances but also unspoken affections and connections that can't even be articulated. As Wendy and Jon struggle to make some kind of peace with their difficult father, watching these wonderfully understated yet compelling actors is a pleasure unto itself. But the script and direction deserve these actors; filmmaker Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills) finds honest emotion and sly, sideways humor in the starkness of mortality. She doesn't force any easy epiphanies on her story, but lets the characters find solace through their own clumsy efforts. Anyone who appreciates the messiness of humanity--the territory that Hollywood movies seem to have surrendered to smart indie films like The Squid and the Whale, Little Children, or The Good Girl--will find The Savages a smart, genuine, and empathic portrait of life. --Bret Fetzer

Beyond The Savages

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Product Details

  • Actors: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Maddie Corman, Peter Frechette, Michael Higgins
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Surround), Spanish (Dolby Surround)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: 20th Century Fox
  • DVD Release Date: April 22, 2008
  • Run Time: 114 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (182 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0014GI6I2
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,999 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Savages" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on April 21, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This would have been a 5 star movie if not for the ending. Even so, I would urge you to see it. They got so much right, even perfect, in MOST parts of this film. I was waiting for the DVD to come out and I ordered it (as of this review, it has not arrived but I've seen this one already)

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.
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Format: DVD
The film handles brillantly a common challenge that many of us have to face: what to do with a demented parent.
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.
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Format: DVD
How we all come to grips with our mortality is often previewed in how we manage the care of our elders. When that elder care is focused on a parent, as it is in Tamara Jenkins's brilliant film THE SAVAGES, it not only strikes chords with individual philosophies, but is also reveals the intricacies of family relationships that come into play in coping with the final days of a parent's life. Though there is little story to this film, this is a character study about isolation, loneliness, and need that will touch the hearts of sensitive viewers.

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.
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Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman shine is the seriocomic film, "The Savages," written and directed by Tamara Jenkins. Linney is Wendy Savage, a thirty-nine year old office temp and aspiring playwright. Hoffman plays forty-two year old Jon Savage, a theater professor in Buffalo who specializes in the works of Berthold Brecht. Neither Jon nor Wendy is particularly successful, although Jon does have a steady job and is working on a book. Both have managed to make a mess of their personal lives. Jon has a Polish girlfriend who is about to return to her country; he loves her but cannot make a permanent commitment. Wendy settles for quick and humiliating liaisons with a married man, instead of seeking a long-term relationship with someone who is free to give her the love that she craves.

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.
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