Review: The Savages
Plot: Two self-absorbed, middle aged siblings- Wendy & Jon Savage (Laura Linney & Philip Seymour Hoffman) are forced to care for their elderly, estranged father Lenny (Philip Bosco) when he begins to suffer from dementia.
Review: I went into THE SAVAGES expecting something special. The buzz surrounding the film has been building since it played to ecstatic reviews at Sundance & the Toronto Film Fest, and the film had a great trailer. Sadly, walking out of the screening I was more than a little disappointed.
I'm not saying THE SAVAGES is a bad film. It has good performances, and the film is pretty to look at. My big problem with the film is that I did not like either of the main characters- in fact I despised them- although Linney & Hoffman both do fine work. Wendy & Jon Savage both start the film self absorbed and pathetic, and they end the film the same way.
He's a blustery Drama professor struggling to finish a manuscript, and she's a failed playwright reduced to working at a series of temp jobs. Both Savages believe that they are destined for greatness, and are so self absorbed that they are incapable of maintaining relationships of any kind. He's got a Polish girlfriend that wants to marry him so that she can stay in the country- but, despite loving her, he's unwilling to tie himself down and sends her packing. Meanwhile, Wendy's having a completely empty affair with her married landlord- that she keeps afloat for seemingly no reason.
Basically, they're your typical over educated, over indulged wannabe intellectuals that think they're smarter than they are. These characters are definitely realistic, but it would have been nice to see them evolve somewhat over the course of the film. Instead all we get is a lot of middle aged, middle class whining about how unfair it is that people don't recognize their brilliance.
These characters were so annoying that throughout the whole film, I was rolling my eyes whenever either of them opened their mouths- not a good thing in a dialogue heavy character piece like this. I can't really fault writer/ director Tamara Jenkins, as she probably never intended these characters to be likable. Still, it would be nice if as a viewer I was able to latch onto one of the characters. They don't have to be perfect- but they should have some redeeming quality- even if it's a tiny one. The explanation that these characters are the way they are due to their emotionally abusive father strikes me as a little hollow. Plenty of people have bad relationships with their parents, and don't end up as total douche bags.
Don't get me wrong- I'm not trying to say that THE SAVAGES is not a good film. I'm sure that it'll have plenty of fans once it comes out. Hoffman's already been nominated for a Golden Globe for his work in the film (he deserved the nod, but not for this- he should have been nominated for Before The Devil Knows You're Dead). It's just that I personally had a very negative reaction to the film. As a film buff I can appreciate that THE SAVAGES is a well made, well acted, and well written film. I just found it impossible to like the film on an emotional level. Maybe if I hadn't had such high expectations I would have liked the film more- but as it stands I simply cannot give THE SAVAGES a pass.
My Rating: 5.5/10
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