The Savages
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NOMINEE:
Actress (Laura Linney)
Supporting Actor (Philip Bosco)

Theatrical Release Date: 11/28/2007
Director: Tamara Jenkins
Cast: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Philip Bosco

Thanks to modern medical science, people are living longer and longer than ever before. According to Stephen Ohlemacher of the Associated Press, if you were born in 2004 you’ll live to be 77.9 years old. That’s nearly old enough to see Halley’s comet circle the globe twice in one lifetime (and who wouldn’t want to see a little speck of light so faint you might think it was the ten o’ clock flight from Singapore?).

And according to the Free Republic, the average life expectancy in 1907 was 47 years old. So, in nearly 100 years, there has been a 60% increase in the length of American lives. I don’t know about you, but 47 sounds like a pretty good age to kick the bucket.

Now, with this extra boon of days on this mortal coil, the issue of what to do with an elderly individual with dementia and the continence of a two day old baby is something that has to be figured out.

Tamara Jenkins’ “The Savages” is a frank look at a brother and sister forced into dealing with their ailing father, all the while dealing with issues in their own lives – many of which are a result of the lack of parental involvement by the very person who now needs them.

Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney play the brother and sister, each continuing to portray such remarkably human characters that it’s a shame that the likes of Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Paul Walker are also considered to perform the same job.

Hoffman’s character is a jumble of emotions and circumstance – a professor in the middle of writing a book and on the verge of losing the woman he loves but cannot commit to (probably due in large part to his absentee parents and a whole lot of things therapists get paid to hear about).

As per usual, Hoffman excels at flawed, fragile people and this role reminds me greatly of the one he played in “Love Liza”. (See that film is you haven’t already, especially if you purport to sit in the PSH fan club bleachers.)

Linney plays an aspiring playwright having an affair with a married man. Like her brother, true emotional commitment seems unlikely and she plays her character so on edge that you can practically hear the scream inside of her head throughout the film.

Playing the father is Philip Bosco, who is especially impressive as the character’s sporadic dementia pops up here and there. Bosco’s ability to tiptoe back and forth through a lucid state is at times painful to watch and reminds me that I’d like to be put down before I need a diaper again (the potty training seems to have worked for me aside from a few nights in college).

Jenkins’ script and direction is usually on point, though the film meanders a bit towards the end, as it became all too clear where the film was headed early on, but the strength of the acting helped to mitigate this factor (though there’s a reveal at the very end that nearly had me take a point away because it’s so schmaltzy).

As more and more people are relegated to nursing homes and assisted living situations, a film like this carries with it the heavy weight of reality and as such, I’m giving “The Savages” a 4 out of 5. In the hands of less talented actors, this could easily have turned into something utterly boring and banal but that’s thankfully not the case and what we’re left with is a haunting film that you may or may not want to watch if someone you love is soon to be in need of more specialized care.