Friday, December 14, 2007

The Savages

Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, whose last film Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) established her as witty auteur, cleverly poking fun at her own pain and embarrassment in a clearly autobiographical story, returns with another story of biting wit that reveals a greater gift for dialogue and a refreshing maturity to a frightening and very real part of growing up. The Savages, aptly named, is about a brother and sister forced to reunite and deal with their father, succumbing rapidly to fits of dementia. The film poses a question-- how does one tenderly car for a man who didn't care for them in youth-- and while never quite answering it, we watch a master class of actors digging deep and pondering it.
Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) is a Manhattan playwright, or rather wannabe playwright, struggling in endless cycles of tedious temp jobs. When Wendy gets a midnight call learning her father Lenny (Philip Bosco) has just written on the bathroom mirror with his own excrement. What to do? She panics and phones professor brother Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman), and reunites with him after a lengthy estrangement to deal with old man who never gave them the proper care they needed growing up. Jenkins doesn't shy away from the less-than-glowing parts of debilatating seniors when bodies start to give up on themselves, and Bosco gives a tremendous performance adding layers of a man barely there, while never pandering to be lovable in the end. There's no heart to heart reunion with his children, no sappy monologue on a life reflected. Here, as it is a lot in reality, is a man physically and mentally starting to fall apart.
The glory of The Savages however in the relationship between Jon and Wendy, and Linney and Hoffman gives wonderful, natural performances as fiercly intelligent and neurotic individuals each in their different ways hollowed out when connecting with others. Jon is carrying a passionate, but non-commital fling with a Russian student (Cara Seymour), crying whenever she makes him eggs, while Wendy is having a dull affair with a married man (Peter Friedman.)
In the end, however The Savages totally belongs to Laura Linney, who eats up this fleshed out role of a woman quietly falling apart at the seams. Perhaps because of her immense background in the stage, Linney nails every line reading, giving a sharply focused and nuance performance. Fiercly funny and clever, she never over sells anything, but gives a completely naturalistic, sympathetic and in the end, heart breaking portrayl of lonely woman trying to make peace with an abusive father, distant brother, but more so with herself. It's a thing of beauty. A-

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...