Monday, April 28, 2008

Savages: Grade A

Savages (2007)
Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Writer-director Tamara Jenkins.

Adult brother and sister must find a nursing home for their estranged father who is showing clear signs of dementia. The father has never been good to them, and they have never been close to each other, making their anxiety in dealing the situation poignant. It’s a universal story, and one that an increasing number of baby boomers are now facing. The writing is sharp and very witty. There is only one speech (People are dying in there, and death is gaseous, smelly, and ugly… etc.) that makes the character sound like the writer’s mouthpiece. Most of the script is right on target. At the same time, both brother and sister are aspiring but not successful writers, envious, and competing for acknowledgement from each other. Neither has a successful romantic life. Linney is a great but underexposed actor. Here, she plays the neurotic, vulnerable, struggling New York writer to a T. Hoffman is so consistently good that you expect it of him, although his character is not as clearly outlined as Linney’s. A student ironically asks in his classroom, “What is the difference between plot and narrative?” This story has plenty of narrative but there are no guns, no missing money, no drugs, spies, bank jobs or explosions. Just good writing and powerful acting.

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