Oscar Ritual 2008 : THE SAVAGES
February 10, 2008, at Angelika Film Center, Dallas, Texas
Nominated for Best Actress (Laura Linney) and Original Screenplay
Though billed as a comedy, The Savages would more aptly be categorized a “comedy of life” for the realism that ran through the entire film. Watching this film made me realize just how overstimulated I am in my entertainment choices; The Savages simply moved at the pace of real life, and I found that I enjoyed it immensely.
The film tells the story of adult siblings, beautifully played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney, coping with the declining health of their historically neglectful father. Both siblings suffer from arrested development as a result of their mostly fatherless lives so that in adulthood each carries emotional scars that dictate their present lives, yet neither is fully aware of just how much blame should be placed on themselves; it is simply easier for them to blame their father for everything that they can or cannot do in adulthood. Wendy, as played by Linney, is the worst offender of the pair, constantly shifting blame for her emotionally stunted responses to lack of a father figure, and as a near-40-year-old woman she has sabotaged every relationship in her life. Only her brother Jon seems to bring her any level of enjoyable relationship, yet this enjoyment often comes from seeing him as less healthy than herself. Both siblings view themselves as more stable than the other, when, in fact, neither is remotely capable of maintaining successful adult relationships beyond a superficial level. And both sabotage whatever good comes into their lives without realizing exactly what they are doing.
It is in the crisis of suddenly having to provide care for their aged father that Jon and Wendy must face their lives head-on. Watching them muddle through is painful and sad, yet also revealing. Their father has moved somewhat beyond the man they remembered in their youth, and this creates a crisis of conscience in the siblings that confuses them but also brings a catalyst for change. The entire experience with their father causes a shift in the lives of Wendy and Jon, and it is this shift that provides the final drama of the film. The story is so beautifully crafted and so well-acted that watching it feels like watching a friend’s life story, or maybe even your own. And in a time when most movies use big sound and bright lights and great amounts of boisterous dialogue, The Savages is a genuine pleasure.
image from Rotten Tomatoes