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Jon and Wendy Savage are two siblings who have spent their adult years trying to recover from the abuse of their abusive father, Lenny Savage. Suddenly, a call comes in that his girlfriend has died, he cannot care for himself with his dementia and her family is dumping him on his children. Despite the fact Jon and Wendy have not spoken to Lenny for twenty years and he is even more loathsome than ever, the Savage siblings feel obliged to take care of him. Now together, brother and sister must come to terms with the new and painful responsibilities with their father now affecting their lives even as they struggle with their own personal demons Lenny helped create.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When Larry drives to Buffalo to pick-up Wendy for the day, he brings his dog, the cat, and the house-plant. They all leave together and when they end up in the hotel room, the dog is gone. Then when Larry drops off Wendy back at John's house, she has her cat and house-plant but Larry's dog is still missing. See more »
Written by Bob Welch
Performed by Bob Welch
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under license from EMI Film & Television Music See more »
When children become the parents
As we move ever further into the 21st Century, more and more Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers are finding themselves thrust into the role of primary caregiver to their ailing and aging parents. Such a situation is challenging enough even under the best of circumstances, but what if the person who needs taking care of was never a loving and nurturing parent to begin with, or the middle-aged child has more than enough problems on his own plate to deal with? This is the dilemma faced by John and Wendy Savage, a brother and sister who have long been estranged from the father who left them when they were youngsters but who has now come back into their lives after he can no longer take care of himself. Despite the fact that the siblings feel little emotional attachment to their father, they agree to do the decent thing by caring for him in his final days, even though his dementia makes it nearly impossible for them to heal old wounds or build a filial bridge between them.
Meanwhile, John and Wendy, both unmarried and childless, aren't exactly what one would call models of highly functional and successful adults in their own right. John is a theater professor and part-time author who lives in a shabby Buffalo apartment with a girl from Poland who is being deported because John, commitment-phobic that he is, can't bring himself to marry her. Wendy is an unsuccessful playwright who pays the bills with temp jobs and has been carrying on a dead-end affair with a married man for years.
"The Savages" works on a dual level, exposing the grim realities of aging, while at the same time exploring the complexities of familial (i.e. parent-child and sibling) relationships. The strain on everyone caught in this type of a predicament can be devastating and overwhelming, and writer/director Tamara Jenkins examines the situation from all angles. John and Wendy have an understandable urge to live their own lives, and they feel ill-equipped to cope with this new burden that has been suddenly placed upon them. The situation also opens up old wounds related to their upbringing and heightens their own feelings of inadequacy and failure. John and Wendy are also not above turning against one another when the world gets to be a bit too much for them to handle, wounding each other with verbal thrusts and jabs carefully aimed at their various weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
The subject matter is obviously dark and brooding, but the filmmakers inject a surprising amount of biting, whistling-past-the-graveyard humor to help lighten the load. They are also helped in this regard by the rich and engaging performances of its three leading actors. Philip Seymour Hoffman is remarkably quiet and subdued in his role of John, the more cynical of the two children who feels a little less guilt-ridden about doing the minimum for a man who never took on the very role of paternal caregiver to his children that they are assuming for him. As the father, Philip Bosco rises to the difficult challenge of portraying a man who's lost much of his ability to connect with the world around him. But it is Laura Linney who provides the warm human center that lifts the movie above the dreary nature of its material. It is Wendy who struggles most with doing what is right by trying to make the last days of a man who abandoned her as comfortable as possible. In her every word and gesture, Linney shows that she understands the paradoxical nature of the character she is being called on to play, revealing her weaknesses and vulnerabilities, while, at the same time, showing her to be a woman of strength and character, even if she has trouble displaying much of either of those qualities in her own life. In fact, we sense that Wendy does quite a bit of growing up in the course of her struggles. Wendy may hate her father for never being there for her and her brother, but she knows maturity means moving beyond one's bitterness over the past and responding to the basic humanity of even the most undeserving among us.
What I like about "The Savages" is that it doesn't devolve into angst-ridden hand-wringing or self-aggrandizing melodramatics in dealing with its topic. Instead, in this her fifth film as a director, Jenkins illuminates a difficult subject with subtlety, insight and compassion. Definitely one worth seeing.
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