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 Manhattans 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 theyre 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 Parkinsons disease, theyre hardly equipped to care for the man who never cared for them. Frustrated at having their lives disrupted and squabbling as theyre desperately searching for a good nursing home, they have to settle for one that will take irascible, rapidly deteriorating Lenny on short notice. Moaning, Were horrible, horrible, horrible people, Wendy is more concerned about her fathers 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 doesnt offer easy answers to this depressing situation because there arent 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 Boscos 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. Its a heartfelt, touching coming-of-middle-age drama.