The Savages is a deeply sad family drama. It's not the kind of DVD you watch if you are feeling even mildly depressed or are dealing with family problems. At the same time, this is not a movie you want to skip and may make you feel like what you are going through is, in the end, normal. If there is such a thing as a reality movie The Savages is it.
This is a very raw story about a somewhat distant brother and sister suddenly having to deal with their very estranged and aging father's decrepitude. They also have to deal with their own unhappiness.
This is one of the most European American movies ever made.
The Savages spares us nothing of the shame, humiliation, difficulties, questions, guilt, or conflicts associated with taking care of an aged loved one. Philip Bosco is excellent as the father who wasn't there and now is not quite there mentally.
The oddest thing about this family drama is how writer director Tamara Jenkins inserts clips or moments featuring happy, dancing senior citizens or promo clips from rest homes and so on that all make aging seem like a wonderful, happy, paradisiacal thing. This is often done just before or after a particularly difficult scene.
The Savages is also a very dark comedy at times. A particularly oddly funny scene is when Wendy and Jon (Laura Linney and Philip Seymour-Hoffman) have their first serious conversation together when Jon is hanging from his closet in a traction thing.
Another is when the kids learn something about their dad's past by accident in a rather strange sequence involving old movies. This scene includes another, somewhat darker moment.
This family drama and perhaps very dark comedy is a bit too long. Yet there are so many brilliant moments it's hard to figure out where it should have been cut.
This DVD is certainly the kind of movie you watch when everything is going well or when you need to feel you are not the only one going through difficult times.