“The Savages,” review by Susan Granger

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For those of us who have dealt or are dealing with angry, aging parents and grandparents, this dysfunctional family serio-comedy hits home.

39 year-old wannabe playwright Wendy Savage (Laura Linney) lives in Manhattan’s East Village with her cat and a married lover/neighbor for company. Her intellectual older brother, Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman), is a professor of drama at a college in Buffalo, but his relationship with his Polish girlfriend is deteriorating because he cannot commit. Both obviously bear the emotional scars of an abusive childhood.

So when they’re summoned to a retirement community in Sun City, Arizona, to help their elderly, estranged father, Lenny (Philip Bosco), who has developed not only dementia but also Parkinson’s disease, they’re hardly equipped to care for the man who never cared for them. Frustrated at having their lives disrupted and squabbling as they’re desperately searching for a ‘good’ nursing home, they have to settle for one that will take irascible, rapidly deteriorating Lenny on short notice. Moaning, “We’re horrible, horrible, horrible people,” Wendy is more concerned about her father’s well-being and comfort, while pragmatic Jon realizes the senior residence is simply a place where people go to die.

While writer/director Tamara Jenkins (“Slums of Beverly Hills”) taps into the ‘guilt’ factor, she doesn’t offer easy answers to this depressing situation – because there aren’t any. What she does deliver are sad, yet funny, subtly fascinating and eccentric, three-dimensional characters, embodied by actors who deliver Oscar-caliber performances.

Laura Linney provides her own engaging brand of incandescence; Philip Seymour Hoffman is raw and riveting; and Philip Bosco’s work is rich and complex, speaking volumes without using words. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Savages” is an astute, empathetic 8. It’s a heartfelt, touching coming-of-middle-age drama.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.