Sunday, 6 June 2010

We're Not In Therapy Anymore, We're In Real Life.

We do like Laura Linney. And we do like Philip Seymour Hoffman (as noted here, here and here.) And we did like they're 2007 collaboration on writer/director Tamara Jenkins' The Savages.

Wendy (Linney) and Jon (Hoffman) are single siblings suddenly brought back together by the death of their aging father Lenny's (Philip Bosco) long term girlfriend. The two had previously signed a non-marriage agreement (effectively a pre-nup for those who don't tie the know) meaning that Lenny receives none of her possessions, meaning that he is now homeless. To make matters worse he is showing signs of dementia - the siblings decide that the best way forward is to put Lenny, whom they are both reasonably estranged from, in a nursing home.

Wendy is having an affair with an older, married man, while Jon is in a relationship with a Polish woman whose visa is about to expire unless they get married, something 'nobody is ready for.' They are both emotionally stunted, and it is implied that this is because of the upbringing they were subjected to. Still, they are forced to spend time together, away from their entirely unfulfilling lives, as they struggle to agree on where to put Lenny - Jon just wants to shaft him away somewhere close to both of them while Wendy is driven by guilt to try and find him somewhere that won't depress her. As they go on, driven by these guilty feelings that turn back into familial love, they grow and adapt and mature, becoming the adjusted adults we always hoped they would be.

It's a great script (Oscar nominated), very well acted by both leads (and the supports, though the focus is so strongly on Wendy and Jon.) Linney picked up another Oscar nomination for her turn, though Hoffman missed out - hey, you can't nominate him every time, right?

It's a superficially simple film with wonderful complexities lying underneath. A basic premise is richly delved into by Jenkins to mine all of the dramatic and emotional possibilities without dropping into melodrama or making the film overly depressing. She has a very light touch, helped by the skills of Linney and Hoffman, which allows the film to remain comedic whilst moving and challenging both the characters and the audience. I haven't seen Jenkins' first film (1998s Slums Of Beverly Hills), but as a sophomore outing The Savages is very strong. 4.5 stars.

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