FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: A few nights ago, I saw “The Savages,” which stars Laura Linney (The Big C [TV series], Kinsey), Philip Seymour Hoffman (The Master, Capote), Philip Bosco (Working Girl, The First Wives Club), Peter Friedman (Love & Other Drugs, Paycheck), David Zayas (Skyline, Dexter [TV series]), Gbenga Akinnagbe (The Taking of Pelham 123, Edge of Darkness), and Cara Seymour (Adaptation., American Psycho). It is written and directed by Tamara Jenkins (Private Life, Slums of Beverly Hills). When their dementia-stricken father is kicked out of assisted living, Wendy (Linney) and Jon Savage (Hoffman) come together to put him in a nursing home, all the while confronting problems in their personal lives.
It’s hard to go wrong with Fox Searchlight; they’re a distribution company I’ve admired and hoped to work with. That is, until the Disney-Fox merger. Now it’s uncertain where that company will end up. It’s always a tragedy when an outlet for Indie features to get wide release is cut off. But, that’s now what we’re here for. We’re here to talk about “The Savages,” a film I’m sure some of you may know, though I’m not crossing my fingers. I’ve never heard of this movie before watching it, but has that ever stopped me from seeing anything? Of course not. What a wonderful, transitional sentence. We’re doing great kids, buckle up. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride. So, as far as your atypical Indie picture goes, “The Savages” falls right in line with the feeling specific heartfelt, mundane features present, such as “Little Miss Sunshine” and “Juno.” You’ve got your quirky, real characters who are broken and looking for answers. Then you’ve got your conflict, which is usually a day-to-day thing, and it transforms our characters for better or worse. Or, it may not even change our heroes at all. I don’t know, this is supposed to represent reality, and it’s hard for people to change. I guess that’s what “The Savages” wanted to present… maybe? It’s hard to tell, though I will say I was entertained. If there’s one thing I love, it’s the Indie film feel, the same one I depicted a few sentences ago. For some reason, it makes me smile ear to ear, and I haven’t been able to explain it. Maybe it’s because I love witty characters and stories that aren’t cliché. Granted, this genre (or sub-genre?) is creating its one kind of tropes, so is it really breaking the mold? I’ll let that one marinate a bit. What am I talking about? Ah yes, “The Savages.” If you’re looking for a raw film built around realistic performances, this one fits the bill. It has to have some of the best acting I’ve seen when it comes to actors hiding behind their characters. Laura Linney is fantastic and Philip Seymour Hoffman is brilliant as these two siblings who figure out the directions of their lives when their father is kicked out of assisted living. It’s not that warm of an experience, nor is it really… well… eventful. There’s certainly quite a bit to enjoy from this story. The characters are wonderfully written and there are scenes that are fun to watch. It can be humorous, and I found myself engaged for almost the entire adventure. It’s your slice of life flick that dwells on cynicism and brokenness, all of which culminating to a climax that should repair our heroes. At least, that’s what I would’ve hoped. You really can’t get much of an ending when it comes to this kind of story. I liked the character arcs presented and the chemistry between them. The clashes and reconciliations were all nice to see unfold, and I think there’s something here to learn from. Hoffman’s character definitely has the more complete ending, while Linney’s turned to be… disappointing. For those of you who want to unearth this picture, I won’t spoil anything, but I will say that it felt like the story was wasted on her since she didn’t walk away having learned much. Not only that, but the character of their father was kind of neglected. Though he wasn’t the central figure (more so the central conflict/person of interest), the film paid enough attention to him where I would’ve liked some sort of moment with the guy. I get it, he has dementia, and there’s only so far you can go with him. However, there was enough presented in the first hour where I would’ve liked to see a payoff or character moment with him. For Pete’s sake, he opened this movie! But alas, I’ll have to settle for what I was given. It’s as if this story couldn’t fulfill some of its promises, and while some might make excuses for its case (work of realism, no rules to filmmaking, etc.), it didn’t work for me. Not to say that this movie doesn’t satisfy in all areas. It’s a solid flick with stellar performances and great moments. The direction and writing are genuine, and I walked away having been entertained. I just wish I was impacted on some level. The chemistry between Hoffman and Linney are the tour de force this movie offers, and it sells. But outside of that, it can waiver in quality. Still, that’s not to say it isn’t worth seeing. There’s quite a bit to pull away from “The Savages,” even if it could’ve been so much more. FINAL SCORE: 81%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: