Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are a dream pairing for this dark comedy-drama about siblings dealing with a sickly father. After Wendy and Jon Savage reluctantly decide to put their father Lenny (Philip Bosco) into a nursing home, their already strained family relationships are put under pressure. Observant drama and humour follow, although the downbeat script never reaches the excellence of its lead performers. It's an impressive film in many ways, but a bleak one without much emotional impact.
Ageing Lenny Savage first raises alarm bells when he writes a message for his carer on the bathroom wall - in his own excrement. Uncomfortable, poignant, disturbing and funny, the mood of this scene is retained throughout the film. The Savages doesn't shy away from the unpleasant side of life, in fact, it revels in it. It's a film about old age and dying, and is likely to make the viewer ponder on their own mortality as much as Wendy and Jon do.
"WELL PERFORMED DRAMA"
So, not a cheery watch, but a worthwhile one for fans of Linney and Seymour Hoffman's talents. His dry, downtrodden delivery compliments her equally witty but rather more hysterical tone; the tone of a single, unfulfilled woman reduced to rushed sex with her married, unattractive neighbour when he's pretending to walk the dog. It's just a shame the script doesn't push the humour further; brief, amusing put-downs aren't quite enough to make this a bonafide comedy. But if you're looking for a well-performed drama about dementia, you've got it.
The Savages is out in the UK on 25th January 2008.