Friday, June 27, 2008

THE SAVAGES (Tamara Jenkins, 2007, USA) Tamara Jenkins creates a believable and emotionally tumultuous tale of two siblings and their dysfunctional paternal relationship. Their elderly father suffers from dementia and is left alone after the death of his common-law wife. Wendy and Jon must connect and alter their own egocentric lives to care for their father, who didn’t care much for them when they where children. Laura Linney garnered the Oscar for Best Actress in her many faceted portrayal of Wendy and the story belongs to her; we experience most of the film from her subjective viewpoint. Her self-involved affair with a married man seems to be a traumatic side-effect from her abusive childhood as is her distant relationship with her brother (superbly acted by Philip Seymour Hoffman). The siblings bicker and argue but are able to come to terms with the predicament, though they do so out a sense of duty rather than any real empathy for their father. The story isn’t contrived or exaggerated and defines the supporting characters as real people too. I expected subplots about thieving caregivers, poor medical attention, Medicare difficulties, financial burdens, grumpy old dying man harassing nurses, etc…but the story is refreshingly absent of such Hollywood conventions. Finally, the end comes with a whimper and isn’t some big production that manipulates the audience into tears. Wendy and Jon move on with their lives but there is a sense of reconciliation with their past and hope for the future. We need more films written and directed by women because they understand not only their female protagonists but the male ego as well. (B+)

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