F.I.L.M. of the Week (March 26, 2010)

26 03 2010

It’s so hard to find a good “dramedy” nowadays.  Most films that are generally considered to fall into this category are heavily imbalanced, never giving a fairly even mix.  But my quest to see all of the Academy Award-nominated performances of the past decade led me to check out “The Savages,” Tamara Jenkin’s beautifully bittersweet dramedy, and it hit the sweet spot.  In fact, it hit so sweetly that it became my “F.I.L.M. of the Week.”

“The Savages” opens with an elderly man (Philip Bosco) writing on a bathroom wall with his own feces.  This event sparks his two estranged children to move him into an assisted living center.  And then the fun begins.

The two siblings, played by Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman, have plenty on their plates as it is.  Linney’s Wendy Savage is a wreck, caught in a dead-end affair with her married neighbor and trying to move out of the monotony of temping to achieve her dream of become a playwright.  Hoffman’s Jon Savage teaches the works of the playwright Bertol Brecht to a nonplussed collegiate audience while never mustering up the energy to write his book.  They remained isolated from each other – and practically from the world as well.

Yet in spite of themselves, they do what is required of them to take care of their ailing father.  As the movie unravels, there is something harder in making the sacrifices in their own lives for Wendy and Jon.  The effects of their father’s upbringing has left them both in a sorry state, and it proves near impossible for them to leave their grudges at the door.  It’s Wendy, though, who finds it most difficult to cope; her antics range from questionably procuring money from FEMA to stealing painkillers from the deceased.

If I had to classify “The Savages” as either a comedy or a drama, I’d reluctantly say a dark comedy.  There’s plenty to laugh at, but there’s plenty to cringe at as well.  It’s a little bleak for a comedy, but Tamara Jenkins’ unsparing honesty and commitment to the emotional development of her characters is worth the pain.  Linney and Hoffman are fantastic as usual, Linney showing us why she earned an Academy Award nomination for her role and Hoffman giving us reason to call his omission a snub.  Be prepared to be floored not just by them, but by the movie as a whole.

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One response

27 03 2010
Branden

I saw this movie after I saw that Laura Linney and Tamara Jenkin’s script was nominated. I enjoyed it very much. It’s good that you spotlighted it.

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