Troubling but realistic comedy-drama about two neurotic siblings (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) who are forced to care for their dementia-addled father (Philip Bosco) after his girlfriend dies and he is left essentially homeless. We are briefly and succinctly informed at the beginning of the film that the father was an abusive, loveless man who drove his children's mother away; this painful backstory informs every scene in which the bickering siblings lead the old man through the indignities of growing old in today's America.
The Savages will be a depressing film for most, as it foreshadows the unhappy realities that many of us will face as our own parents enter their dotage and we are faced with the decision of placing them in foul-smelling, soulless nursing homes to live out the final years of their lives. As such, I won't blame anybody if they avoid this film entirely. But Jenkins' script and direction are solid, and Linney and Hoffman are great as usual. Watching these hopeless, scared adult children flail about could have been irritating to watch with almost any other actors, but the doe-eyed Linney remains appealing as always, and Hoffman, who can be prone to screaming fits in his roles, delivers a generally restrained performance, cutting loose only when he absolutely has to.
The Savages is a sad portrait of a broken family, and is moreover a gloomy reminder of things to come for all of us. But Jenkins infuses the film with enough humor – enhanced by genuine chemistry between Linney and Hoffman – to keep its spirits afloat.