Friday, January 04, 2008

The Savages Movie Review

Starring: Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Co-Starring: Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman

I posted this review over on my Why Oh Why? blog earlier in the week. Then I realized it's probably more suited for here on Alzheimer's Moments.

I want to acknowledge right up front that my reaction to The Savages is diametrically opposed to almost every review I've read.

I was expecting it to be a poignant yet ultimately uplifting look at a family affected by the Parkinson's-related dementia of a parent. Instead, it was a dismal portrayal of aging and dysfunction.

The studio bills the movie as "An irreverent, hilarious and heartbreaking story revolving around a modern American family..." Whoever watched this movie and wrote that horseshit needs their head examined — a diagnosis of which would probably be dementia.

This film is de-press-ing. While there are a few chuckles to be had, there is nothing "hilarious" about it. And the sorrow isn't really generated from the dementia aspect (although that's depressing, too), but more from the effed up lives of the children played by Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman. I came away with the feeling that Americans are a complete mess and there is no hope for us as a culture.

I went into the movie expecting to identify with the caregivers and release some of my own stress with a good cry. I didn't shed a tear...it is not heartwarming. It was interesting that I found myself identifying with the parent rather than the children. It made me feel sorry for aging people. I wondered what it must be like to depend completely on others, whether they be professional caregivers, unstable and/or uninterested relatives, or complete strangers. The helplessness I saw on the screen gave me refreshed insight into how my mother must feel. Very scary, indeed.

What I Liked
Peter Friedman does an outstanding job in a supporting role as Laura Linney's boyfriend. While his character isn't the most likable, he plays it very well, and you forget that he's an actor in front of a camera. You may recognize him from the television series Brooklyn Bridge several years ago.
• Interesting premise. I just think it was poorly executed starting with the script.
• It gave me an idea for my mom — I'm going to buy her a lava lamp! I remember how my grandparents had one years decades ago. It sounds kinda silly but watching it form its randomly-shaped brightly-colored bubbles of goo occupied their time and gave them something to focus on.

What I Didn't Like
• The acting was inconsistent. At times the leads were awesome, other times flat. The supporting cast was great (see above).
• Bait and Switch Marketing #1: This is not a comedy and it is not hilarious; it is a drama, and a depressing drama at that.
• Bait and Switch Marketing #2: This is not primarily about dementia; that is the setting and catalyst for the examination of the effed up lives of those damn depressing unlikable dysfunctional children.
• Laura Linney's terrible brown wig. I'm being petty, yes, but I found it distracting.

What I Learned
• Getting old can really suck.
• Plan ahead. Check into Long Term Healthcare Insurance; nursing homes ain't cheap and those gorgeous assisted living places are even worse.
• Get a will, decide what should be done if you are incapacitated, and plan what you want for your funeral.
• Be nice to your kids because you may really need them someday.

It isn't awful but I'd recommend other movies to see first.
*

5 comments:

Dee said...

Have you seen "Away from Her"? http://www.caprifilms.com/awayfromher/
I've been wanting to see it but not sure if I'm up for it. The reviews seem very good.
D

Y | O | Y said...

dee--I hadn't even heard of it. I think Olympic Dukakis was born and raised not far from here!

The reviews for The Savages are great, too. It is up for Best *Comedy* at the Golden Globes. I think I must have seen a different movie from everyone else!

Dee said...

I finally watched 'Away from Her' on Sunday night. Enjoyed it, and it didn't make me as sad as I thought it might. It seemed like an easier setting than what most families go through w/ an AD patient -- the patient decided that she would go into a home so there wasn't any forcing and the feelings that go w/ that. Good movie, but not the best. Well done, I think, a bit of language. I'd recommend it, but it wasn't rivoting. And it only showed the sentimental/sad side of AD, not anger and those other sad parts.

Thought you might like to know this.
D

Greg said...

Okay, I've caught up with your review, and I agree with everything you say, although I'd missed the marketing that you object to. I laughed about the lava lamp - I had EXACTLY the same point and am considering getting one for her Mother's Day present.

Q: who do I have to be nice to if I don't have kids?

Greg said...

Oh, and I know I'll probably go and see "Away from Her" but the tiny clip I've seen already had me physically twisting in my chair with discomfort because it felt so wrongly played. Maybe I won't torture myself twice in one year....