The Savages [DVD]

By Clint Morris

There are a lot of movies that you don’t whether to laugh or cry in – heck, those ”Scary Movie” sequels near had me at tears – but ‘’The Savages’’ intentionally derails the drama so it runs smack-bang into the comedy. Similar in tone to ‘’Year of the Dog’’, where we’re supposed to laugh at the trials and tribulations of a lonely woman whose recently lost her beloved dog (only thing is, we’re still upset over the poor woman losing her dog!), it’s the “tragic” tale of two siblings who are forced to put their poor old dad, whose suffering from dementia, into a nursing home. And no, it doesn’t play like “Folks!” (1992) (that cornball comedy where Tom Selleck had to keep his unrestrainable father, played by Hume Cronyn, in line) or Aussie TVs “Mother & Son”… so by-and-large, it shouldn’t be funny. But, it is. Kinda – you just gotta get past how sad it all is first.

Tamara Jenkins’ film doesn’t play corny, nor does it intentionally try and hump your funny bone, but somehow it manages to raise a smile. It’s likely due to just how real the film plays – and how sometimes, even as bad as things seem, you have to see the humour in the situation. It romanticizes the absurd, too. Granted, as the film progresses and Dad gets worse, the comedy does start to take a backseat to some sadder stuff.

Linney and Hoffman are pitch-perfect. Her Wendy Savage is incredibly self-absorbed and emotionally immature but can easily react and act to an emergency. His Jon Savage is just as messed up – maybe even more so – but along with his sister, gets the job done and manages to hold it together. Together Linney and Hoffman make a solid duo.

Philip Bosco, whose many film credits include the likes of “Three Men and a Baby” and “’My Best Friend’s Wedding”, and more recently, he’s been seen on the TV drama “Damages”, is just as exceptional as Lenny Savage. Though at most times you feel like crying for the poor old bugger, there’s other times you can’t help but smile at something he does… or says. It’s the authenticity of the performance that evokes both emotions.

Performance-wise, “The Savages” is splendid. The only downfall of the film may be that that Jenkins seems to capitalize on individual moments more so than deliver a thoroughly-entertaining storyline – it’s there, but it just isn’t enough to completely hold your attention for the film’s sometimes sluggish 113 minute running time. A little trim here and there and this could’ve been a real winner.

DVD EXTRAS
Extras include featurettes and a deleted scene.