Friday, January 30, 2009

The Savages

When I initially heard about this movie I was positive it was going to be good. It has a great cast, and it's a movie that explores one of those forbidden subjects--aging. So when it arrived from Netflix I was excited. But then it sat on the entertainment center shelf for more than two months. Now granted we had a baby in there, and any stretch of time that could be spent watching a movie was spent sleeping instead. Then it was the holidays, and now I've started school. But it was more than that. I knew this movie was going to be a gut wrenching emotional experience.

I was not wrong.

I finally broke down and watched this film last night after the wife abandoned me for bed, and while I sipped a cold Beck's as my late night snack venison burgers sizzled on the grill.

The movie essentially follows the last few months of Lenny Savage's life, played by Philip Brosco. Lenny lives in Sun City AZ with his girlfriend of nearly 20 years, and when she dies, he discovers that she's not made any provisions for him in her will. Lenny's estranged kids, Wendy (Laura Linney) and Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) arrive for him from the East coast, whisk him away, and tuck him neatly into a Medicare nursing home.

It is clear from the start that this family is horribly dysfunctional, and Lenny is the original cause for most of it. His kids are terribly damaged, and they struggle with their 'kidly obligation' to a father they even have a hard time admitting they love.

The film is deeply sad, and the pain fairly oozes from screen. It examines each of the kids closely as they battle between their ancient history with their father and and the fundamental human rights that any decent person would expect for another human being.

Laura Linney is outstanding in this movie, and truth be told I haven't seen her in any film that I've not been impressed by her performance. Her performances in Love Actually and The Truman Show are among her best. Here she plays a neurotic struggling playwright who's major relationship is with a married man. But there is a frankness, an openness and honesty the simmers just below the surface despite her best efforts to wall herself off from the world due to past trauma. The woman is searching for a way to relate to life that doesn't hurt. Laura Linney absolutely breathes life to this character, and lovingly caresses each neurosis like an old felt hat or a faded gingham checked teddy bear.

Philip Seymour is an incredibly underrated actor. He's been in so many good films it's ridiculous. This role is no stretch him, and he plays it masterfully. Fighting his own battles of self worth and esteem, Philip's character labels himself the strong one, and does "what has to be done" regardless of its unpleasantness. Unfortunately he doesn't deal with the emotional toll those types of things bring with them, and it comes out in the other parts of his life.

One thing that surprised me about this film was how it contrasted everything. We hear very little about the abusive childhood Wendy and Jon had at the hands of Lenny throughout the beginning of the movie. As a result the viewer builds sympathy for Lenny, and wonder at the insensitivity of his kids. Even at the end of the movie, the fresh breath of sunshine is tempered with a graphic revelation of just how badly Lenny treated his kids.

There are a couple of sex scenes in this film, but no nudity. The scenes are more tedious than anything, certainly not sexually gratifying. There is some cursing. This is not a film for kids--it is dark and melancholy. It is however, very worth experience. And yes, there is a small ray of light at the end of the dark tunnel.

I give this movie an 'A'.


  1. So, I just watched an extended trailor. Wow, I cannot watch, too painfully close to home for me, and my mom who lives in a nursing home, ouch.

  2. I am just curious as to where I might find your Entrecard? I keep coming by, but...

  3. Heather--It's an emotional movie for sure. I think you might actually enjoy it. It ends in a good way I think. :) But yeah, definitely not a film purely for mindless entertainment.

    flit--I deleted my widget. My sidebar was getting way too cluttered. And the advertisement requests kind of annoyed me anyway. I've sent entrecard an email to delete my account, but that's been several days ago.

    I hope you still come back! :)