Length: 113 minutes
Director: Tamara Jenkins (The Slums of Beverly Hills; Family Remains)
Writer: Tamara Jenkins (The Slums of Beverly Hills; Family Remains)
Starring: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman, Cara Seymour, Debra Monk, Rosemary Murphy, Hal Blankenship, Guy Boyd
Every year I have to wait and wait for a movie to find it’s way to me before I can write my Top Ten Best Movies of the Year List. Last year it was David Lynch’s “Inland Empire”, which was interesting, but not worth the wait. This year it was “The Savages” and it was absolutely worth the wait. “The Savages” is one of the Best Films of 2007. The list, by the way, will be on the blog by the end of the month. I know April is a bit far into the following year for a best of list for the prior year, but I believe in a fair and just list and waiting to see all the movies I need to see before compiling it and then giving it some time to order (I’m a geek, I know). That’s off topic. What I want to talk about is how wonderful this film is. It’s wonderful on so many levels. One, of course, being it’s phenomenal two leads. Laura Linney is one of my favorite actresses and she gives what is probably the best performance of her career. Philip Seymour Hoffman, all ready putting in excellent work in 2007’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead” and “Charlie Wilson’s War” (earning an Oscar nod) also outdoes himself. The trailer for the movie made it look a bit obnoxious. I’m familiar with it’s writer and director through a movie I’ve still never seen all the way through, “The Slums of Beverly Hills”. Not a knock on the movie- I’ve liked what I’ve seen, I’ve just never managed to watch the whole thing. From the previews, I imagined “The Savages” as a film where the characters tossed “witty, you can tell we’re trying to be clever” dialogue back and forth with some stale observations about getting older. I couldn’t have been more off base. The dialogue is witty and clever, though in a completely natural way. There are observations about getting older, yet they aren’t stale- they are sad and true. It’s a movie about people searching desperately for happiness as time is closing in on them. They self sabotage themselves and wonder why they can’t find it. Sounds depressing, I know. Granted, moments of the movie are, still it is a comedy and it is at times very, very funny. You know people like the family in the film. The father, Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco), hasn’t been in much contact with his biological son, Jon (Hoffman) and daughter, Wendy (Linney) for twenty years or so. He lives in Arizona with a walking zombie of a girlfriend, who indeed finally dies mid-nail polish. Jon and Wendy are called in take care of him. Lenny is slowly losing a battle with Alzheimer's and wasn’t exactly a model father growing up. Wendy has written a play about her childhood entitled “Wake Up When It’s Over”. At one point in the play the father character repeatedly slaps the son character in the face in the kitchen. Needless to say Wendy, herself, is a mess. She lives with her cat and is having an affair with a cowardly married man (Peter Friedman), who cares enough about her for sex, but barely re-acts when she lies to him about a potential cancer issue. She is an office temp, not a professional playwright, though she tells her brother it is the other way around. Jon is a bit more accomplished. He is a college professor with a girlfriend (“American Psycho”’s Cara Seymour) who is being deported because he won’t marry her to get her a green card. The girlfriend tells Wendy that he won’t shed a tear about her leaving, yet he cries when she cooks him eggs for breakfast. Even though the years have separated the children from their father the resentment and repercussions are fresh. The father knows it and he slips into oblivion with guilt as his freshest memories. It reminded me of a more realistic “Royal Tenenbaums”, except this father isn’t able (or willing) to redeem himself and the worst part about it is that he’s passed the trait along to his offspring. Jenkins’ superb script lost out to “Juno” for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards this year. Unfair. As I’ve stated before, “Juno” was all well and good, but real people don’t talk like that (“Lars and the Real Girl” also lost- I would have liked to have seen a first ever tie- for screenplay anyway- with this instead). The heart that beats in “Juno” was charming and cute. The heart that beats in “The Savages” is like the heart that beats in a real human being. A human being who is afraid of failure, of not being loved, of growing old and dying. Did I mention it was a comedy?