the fresh films reviews

S I N C E   1 9 9 7


The Savages (2007)

Tamara Jenkins
The Savages
114 minutes
Anne Carey
Ted Hope
Erica Westheimer
Tamara Jenkins

Cast includes:

Wendy Savage Laura Linney
Jon Savage Philip Seymour Hoffman
Lenny Savage Philip Bosco
Larry Peter Friedman
Eduardo David Zayas
Jimmy Gbenga Akinnagbe
Kasia Cara Seymour



It's a known fact that writers like to write about other writers and that they often seem to create a world in which everyone can be an intellectual and/or a successful playwright. Even if these characters are struggling writers, they will get their break by the end of the film, and how can we complain? After all, the film we are watching is probably the result of a once struggling writer getting his or her big break.

Luckily, some of these writer-loving writers also now have something to say about other issues in life. Tamara Jenkins, penner and director of the sweetly melancholic drama The Savages, depicts the directionless, deromanticized lives of modern, urban 30- and 40-somethings almost as well as she portrays the process of ageing (with dementia) in a public American nursing home. The former, of course, has been done by many a filmmaker before her in recent years, whereas the latter is not the most frequent thematic on film. Sarah Polley, in my opinion, went overboard in her depiction of Alzheimer's with Away From Her in 2006, but Tamara Jenkins captures the subtleties of the situation. She wants to show that although people may experience situations like these as tragedies, they are ultimately just the trivialities of life, and her characters must learn to look outside of themselves. Wendy's unrealistic idealism, Jon's pragmatic detachment, and Lenny's frustrating yield to his fate provide clashes, but small and bearable clashes united by the love they all have for each other, despite their history.

There are moments of great interpersonal and emotional value in this film, and Jenkins also kicks fairly heavily at the costly, glossed nursing homes which she claims in many cases represent nothing but a romanticised idea of 'nicer' and 'less real' ageing (or dying, as Jon claims) which is more useful for the consciousness of the relatives than for anything else. Instead, The Savages wants to kill some myths about public welfare while at the same time asking us to get more in touch with reality - both when it comes to our life cycles and the concept of settling down. Despite some too familiar moments, The Savages is a good film with depth in character - helped by the consistently strong acting by the two unassuming leads and the very impressive Philip Bosco.

Copyright 4.11.2008 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang