Kelly and I had the opportunity to see a pre-screening of THE SAVAGES with our film club last night. There has been a lot of underlying buzz for this film,I am here to say that it may be justified. Some thoughts,
Is it really any coincidence that the two estranged Savage children are named after characters in Peter Pan? I think not. Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Wendy (Laura Linney) are middle-aged and essentially alone, having apparently successfully dodged adulthood as well as any real intimacy with another individual.
They are thrust into having to deal with their father’s sudden dementia, and the emotional and financial challenges that come with that. The potential emotional fireworks that would be seen in a Lifetime Movie of the Week are quietly dispatched in favor of the sad, absurd, and funny moments in their efforts to deal with Dad (Phillip Bosco), as well as dealing together with the past. Both Hoffman and Linney are wonderful — underplaying so perfectly to bring out the crumpled, bittersweet truths of their lives and inter-dependent relationships.
Not nearly as depressing as the subject matter could have been, I found it interesting that the pre-screening audience — many skewing well into their 60’s and beyond — laughed at many of the heart-wrenching scenes (nursing home gaffs, adult diapers, violent outbursts brought on by dementia). Was it nervous laughter, brought on by thoughts of how their children will manage them when they are in a similar situation? Most likely many in the theatre quietly hoped for a quick and quiet demise at the appropriate time (as I do). Or not,
Regardless, I highly recommend this film for its acting alone. The three principals: Linney, Hoffman, and Bosco, bring a quiet depth to their parts that lesser actors will awe. (If possible, directly compare Hoffman’s portrayal in this film with his spectacular showing in Before the Devil Knows You”re Dead. The same tone, and yet miles apart. Astounding.)
PS: Although I would recommend that you see it as soon as you can, this is one of those films that will NOT suffer in its translation to the small screen. Like Little Miss Sunshine from last year, there is no CGI or panoramic shots that will be lost in that translation.