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The Savages

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Judy Thorburn

"The Savages" - A Poingnant, Insightful Look At A Very Human Condition

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"THE SAVAGES" - A POINGNANT, INSIGHTFUL LOOK AT A VERY HUMAN CONDITION

Flick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha ChemplavilFlick Chicks Chick-O-Meter The Flick Chicks, film, video, movie reviews, critics, Judy Thorburn, Victoria Alexander, Polly Peluso, Shannon Onstot, Jacqueline Monahan, Tasha Chemplavil

The Savages explores a subject that hits way too close to home for many adult children; having to care for aged parents. For most children that come from a loving home, it is natural for the parents to want to nurture and care for their child as they grow into adulthood. But when the tables are turned and grown up sons and daughters are faced with taking care of an elderly, sick parent who cannot take care of themselves, it often comes as an unprepared shock that forces a son or daughter to grab whatever inner strength they have and make hard decisions that will forever leave an impact. It is even worse when there is baggage attached and you have to be the caregiver for a parent that wasn’t there for you.

Ten years after her impressive feature film debut, the 1998 dark comedy “Slums of Beverly Hills”, writer/director Tamara Jenkins finally delivers another film that also revolves around family dynamics. The Savages follows the relationship between middle aged siblings as they deal with the issues surrounding their elderly father when he is diagnosed with dementia.

Brother and sister Jon and Wendy Savage may share the first names of characters from Peter Pan, but the story is far from being a fairy tale. Like their namesakes they refuse to grow up, however their life circumstances are very real and true to life. They share other similarities in that they are both theatre people, have emotional scars from a dad who mistreated and neglected them, and a mother who wasn’t there. As a result of their dysfunctional childhood they have grown into emotionally stunted adults, which is evident in their behavior. Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a college Professor of Drama in Buffalo, New York and in the middle of writing a book on Bertholt Brecht. He has a live in girlfriend of three years but she is returning to Poland since he won’t marry her. Although Jon tries to keep his true feelings bottled up, he can’t hold back the tears when she cooks him eggs.

Jon’s sis Wendy (Laura Linney), also single, is a struggling East Village playwright living alone with her pet cat, working temp jobs, popping pills, and having an affair with her married neighbor (Peter Friedman) even though she may actually care more for his dog then him. Like her brother, she feels comfortable and safe in a relationship with no commitment.

As for their estranged father Lenny (veteran actor Philip Bosco) for the past 20 years, he has been living with his girlfriend in the retirement community of Sun City, Arizona. But Lenny has been forgetful, displaying strange behavior that comes to a head when he is caught writing on the bathroom wall with his own feces. With no place to go after his girlfriend dies, and diagnosed with dementia, his children are called in to oversee his care.


In order to take matters into their own hands, Wendy relocates to Jon’s messy house in Buffalo so together they can make plans on what to do with their old man, whom they haven’t seen in years. Of course, that means putting him in a nursing home, a hard decision they are burdened with, regardless of the way he’s treated them, that will bring up all sorts of emotions ranging from denial to anger, resentment, and of course, guilt. The agonizing situation also tests the relationship of the brother and sister who bicker, are jealous of each other, and makes them re-examine their own self absorbed life.

As a person who knows first hand what it is like be the caregiver of a parent, I can attest that writer/director Tamara Jenkins does a brilliant job in her examination of this sensitive and hard to deal with subject. Although laced with wry humor, The Savages is by no means a comedy. Rather, her film is a smart and touching drama driven by authentic and honest performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney, two of the best screen actors today. But, ultimately this is Linney’s film. The story is mostly focused on her character that is wracked with neuroses, low self esteem, insecurity, and mixed feelings about doing the absolute best for a father who didn’t deserve it. What Linney deserves is an Oscar nomination, not so much for what is spoken but what she conveys with her face. I know I am not the only one who can identify and relate to her character, her family dynamics, and the emotions that she conveys.

Like the recent Away From Her which dealt with Alzheimer’s, The Savages explores the subject matter in a poignant and effective way. But most of all, what makes this film so special is the truthful delivery that, for me, hit a familiar chord. The Savages may be damaged and flawed, yet they are recognizable people and very human.