The Savages (2007)

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I’ve been meaning to watch this movie forever, and now I finally have.
One of the best films I’ve seen in a while. And that “best” often seems to imply some kind of spectacularity, being blown away or subjected to a fireworks of emotions and action…

But this one stays firmly under the radar. It’s mostly quite unspectacular, there are no beautiful people or shiny cars in the movie and it’s mostly set in Buffalo, NY. But in all this bleakness, in this foggy greyness of an upstate winter we catch a glimpse into the messed up lives of both brother and sister Savage literally woken up by the news that their father’s starting to lose it.

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Neither Jon (professor of literature played by Philipp Seymour Hoffmann) nor Wendy (an unpublished NYC playwright played by Laura Tinney) have it together. Both lead lives that border on the pathetic. Both live mostly alone and estranged from their father. How they pick up their demented and wheelchair-bound father from the Arizona cookie cutter home where he’d been living with his girlfriend, till she died and left him nothing, and how Jon and Wendy team up to find him a place in a sober Buffalo nursing home which he takes for a hotel at first (“Tip the girl!”), all of this would be depressing and unbearable to watch if one didn’t suspect that that’s what most of us will be going through at some point. Probably first as the children of our parents, and then, as the incontinent and confused old farts spending their not-so-golden years before it’s time to quietly bow out. The father’s pain in his lucid moments, the children’s messed-up-ness with their own lives and their realization that not only is their father about to die soon, but that their own lives need some serious steering around to find new hope and, well, a life to speak of.

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The film manages to convey all these impressions without the slightest cheap tearjerking or stereotypical sob scenes. Despite everything, the quiet tragedy yields the odd unexpected comical moment. And as for the main characters, the actors don’t act them, they are those people. And all that’s what makes this film so wonderful, human, touching, sad and effortlessly real.

The usual info on the movie can be found at IMDB.

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