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DVD Review

The Savages


Starring: Laura Linney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Bosco
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 26 May 2008

The last thing the two Savage siblings, Wendy and Jon, ever wanted to do was look back at their difficult family history. Managing to escape their father's domineering grasp, they are now firmly cocooned in their own complicated lives. Wendy is a struggling New York amateur playwright, forced to work boring temporary office jobs to pay the rent. Jon is a neurotic college drama professor writing books books on obscure subjects. Then comes the call that informs them that the father they have long feared and avoided, Lenny Savage, is slowly being consumed by dementia and they are the only ones that can help...

The Savages is a true to life exploration of a topic that most people don't want to think about until it happens - just what do we do when our parents become too old to care for themselves? Shoving them in a home, and then feeling guilty about it, seems to be the answer for most.

The subject is well handled. This is mainly down to a great script, but even the world's best story falls flat without a believable cast. Laura Linney, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Bosco are all perfect in their roles - to the point where it's almost impossible to believe that writer/director Tamara Jenkins didn't have them in mind while writing the script.

The humour in this movie is subtle and nicely handled. I loved the fact that when the Savages go to visit their father, in the house he's been living in for the last 20-odd years, it's like walking into a Flintstones cartoon. Each house in the street is identical - even down to an identical tree in each front garden. The Flintstones connection is taken further when Wendy, doped up on painkillers, stares out of the car window as they drive off, passing the same background time and time again.

There's also a great scene where Jon points out that care homes try hard to cover up the fact that they are buildings were people are dying slowly, painfully and alone. Everything, from the landscaped gardens to the sea views, is orchestrated for the benefit of the resident's family members - to make them feel good about abandoning their loved ones. They aren't designed to look good, as they'd have you believe, for the residents.

Extras include About the Savages (20 min, 27 sec behind-the-scenes featurette) two extended scenes (which are just the full versions of the bizarre dancing scene and old couple duet act); and Director's Snapshot (photo gallery of pictures taken by the director).

What was interesting was the fact that I had made a note in my review notes to bemoan the fact that the music composer, Stephen Trask, should be ashamed of himself for copying, almost note for note, some of Carter Burwell's score for Being John Malkovich. However, in the About the Savages featurette Jenkins reveals that originally she wanted Burwell to write the score but he was busy and suggested Trask for the job. I'm not sure if, knowing that Jenkins wanted Burwell's music for the film, Trask decided he'd try to emulate his style, but it certainly sounds very similar.

The end result is a movie that finds humour in the strangest of places, as we do in real life. This is a touching film that will no doubt speak volumes to those who have - and those who in the future will have - gone through a similar experience.


Darren Rea

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