The Savages

June 8, 2008 at 9:00 am | Posted in DVD, movies, music links | Leave a comment

Wendy Savage: I’m Lenny Savage’s daughter in B26. He has a big red pillow; it’s missing.
Simone: Did he have his name on it?
Wendy Savage: And his room number.
Simone: What’s it look like?
Wendy Savage: Big. Red. Pillow.

The Savages
DVD – June 7, 2008

On a whim, I decided to ask my mother if she would like to see The Savages today. We collectively have enjoyed Phillip Seymour Hoffman in many roles, as well as Laura Linney and Philip Bosco, who all star as Brother, Sister and Father Savage. The film’s trailer portrays a sardonic, but playful repertoire between the siblings and their father that I thought it might be a nice family pic to see with my mom.

I seem, however, to be on a roll. Mostly, the cause for this extra review is cautionary and coincidental. As with Great World of Sound, the Savages trailer has been cut for witty appeal. (Sidenote: It also uses music by the band Spoon, who are heavily featured on the Stranger than Fiction soundtrack. Unfortunately, the song “Way We Get By” is nowhere to be found in the actual film, which is a bummer.) Not that there aren’t comedic or witty moments in both of these films, its just not as funny as advertised.

The “It’s all been done before” mentality actually helped a little, in my opinion. (Horrific as it may be for a critic like myself to enjoy a film only by association, even if it is good association.) The film begins with scenes of clean and openly-spaced Arizona suburbs reminiscent of Edward Scissorhands. Have to give a nod to the cinematographer for a beautifully shot film, which adds to the overall tone described earlier. This film is right up my alley and I enjoyed it, even if I’m not making that point clear right now. I loved the feel of this movie… I’ve just felt it before, and quite recently in fact. Plus I saw it during the afternoon, which could have lightened the heavy themes and altered the sensibility a bit.

Even Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s rundown sadness in Jon Savage made me want to see Love Liza again. Brilliant performance! He’s good in this too, but he’s just awesome in general. If you are into Savages and other dour spirals of reality, Love Liza is a 5-star Orgconfuz recommendation. Can you tell I’m a huge fan?

The plot boils down to a simple fact: Real people in real situations. Brother and sister care for their dying parent… who dies. In a way, I am reminded of movies like Sideways or Lost in Translation or Punch-Drunk Love even. Put people in situations and see how they react (and make sure to add a kick-ass soundtrack! Great score by Stephen Trask.) The pacing and mood are everything in these movies, like watching a figure-skater. One fall and its all over. So easily could the plot meander into awkward and choppy delivery. But the Savages does deliver on its premise successfully. And though nothing really grand happens, its still an honest and relatable story.

Upon reflection, I look back on movies I have seen about death and recall reviewing The Bucket List. Though this also had many scenes devoted to the consequences of illness, now more than ever I feel a idealistic gloss over that movie. As if to say, wouldn’t it be nice if we were all rich and could have the experience of death that we want. Accomplish all the dreams and experiences possible before succumbing to the ultimate farewell. One of the more poignant scenes in the Savages is when the three main characters are in a car and the siblings begin to fight. The ill father – with a heart-breakingly pained look on his face – turns down his hearing aid and lifts up his hood, hiding from his children. Is this what a dying man should be surrounded by? Furthermore, when a loved one is at the end of life, is it all we can do to make them feel comfortable as best we can? The burden of elderly caretaking from all perspectives is a thought provoking one.

Movie SmackDown – The Savages vs. Away from Her

The Savages reviewed by Week in Rewind.

This movie was directed by its own screenwriter… don’t you love when that happens? I’m all for creative control of your own vision. Her name is Tamara Jenkins, whom is known best as the writer/director of Slums of Beverly Hills. Much love for Alexander Payne who produced the Savages as well as produced or wrote or directed (or both) many other great films I have seen (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways lol which now makes my earlier reference make sense) and ones I have yet to see, but heard were great (Paris, je t’aime, King of California).

RATING: ****/5 (One star removed for not loving it enough to have to own it.)
Recommendation: HBO will soon play it 7 times a week. Catch the one at night.

Nice poster design here. I wonder who did it.

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