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Archive for May 7th, 2008

If you make it through the first five minutes of The Savages, wherein a frustrated, confused old man writes his sentiments on the bathroom wall with, well, you know what, then you are in for a gently challenging, ultimately hopeful movie experience.

In last week’s review of Lars and The Real Girl, I referred to of actors who typically play pent-up, tightly wound characters in pent-up, tightly wound little independent films. In The Savages, out on DVD, we have two of the finest in the business playing their muted best: Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Fortyish siblings John and Wendy Savage refuse to grow up (as their Peter Pan-inspired names would suggest.) Wendy works a series of temp jobs and wastes office supplies endlessly applying for grants in order to chase her dream of playwriting. John has chosen “college for life” and teaches theater. In the romance department, neither sibling is getting anywhere. Wendy is involved with a married man with no intention of leaving his wife. John has a longtime live-in, a Polish prof he loves, but whose visa has expired. He refuses to marry her.

And yet, each is content in their little bubble…until their lives turn upside down. Their perpetual adolescence is shattered by the fast-forward disintegration of their elderly father (Phillip Bosco.) Seriously, the first ten minutes is tough to watch as we see Dad’s dementia destroy every bit of his dignity (the bathroom wall is just the beginning.) Sadly, he has enough of his mind left to witness his own degradation.

In coming to terms with what to do with the old man, John and Wendy each think their stale lives is more important, and that the other should make the sacrifices. Each stands his ground, however, and the resulting friction causes cracks wide enough for growth and change to seep through.

Obviously, this isn’t the delightful whimsical tale that Lars was, but it is a good story (Oscar-nominated, in fact.). If you happen to be 40, and thinking ahead to that thing we must all face, it’s sure to hit home. It definitely drags you through the hard choices, but ultimately leaves you hopeful. Rent it!

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