November 26, 2007

The Savages.

The Savages "It's not something one often praises in a film, but there's a mundaneness to The Savages that is incredibly appealing," writes Matt Singer at IFC News. "The film is about a brother (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a sister (Laura Linney) dealing with their ailing father (Philip Bosco). That is all. There is no wacky road trip where they all reconnect, or a romanticized bank heist that solves all their unaddressed problems. That simplicity is refreshing, even if the movie's tone is a little uneven."

New York's David Edelstein finds it "a delightful movie - the perfect companion piece (and antidote) to the year's other superb convalescent-dementia picture, Away From Her.... [T]he funny bubbles up from the sad, the sad gives the funny weight."

Updated through 11/30.

"[Tamara] Jenkins's sweet and tart sensibility is located halfway between the compassionate satire of an Alexander Payne and the comic sang-froid of a Todd Solondz," writes Newsweek's David Ansen.

"Linney, grinning like a teen-ager over her fibs, does her naughtiest, most secretive work yet," writes David Denby in the New Yorker.

Earlier: Reviews from Sundance.

Updates, 11/27: "Linney and Hoffman dutifully embody their roles, yet Jenkins never justifies having any interest in these cretins' plight," argues Nick Schager in Slant.

"An instinctive provocateur, Jenkins gleefully rubs the more graphic symptoms of dementia in our faces - as well she should, given the emotional fallout of dealing with a man who covers a bathroom wall with his own feces," writes Ella Taylor in the Voice. "But the movie also comes with the wistful sadness of a maturing filmmaker who understands that in matters of death, sorrow and black comedy often walk hand in hand."

Jenkins is a guest on Fresh Air.

"If any film comedy prior to The Savages so fully earns the characterization 'painfully funny,' I'd like to know about it," writes Premiere's Glenn Kenny. "Or maybe I wouldn't. Tamara Jenkins's long-awaited sophomore directorial effort - her debut, the sharp and strangely sweet Slums of Beverly Hills, is nearly a decade old - would be a farce of mortification were it not for the sad but stout heart that centers it."

Updates, 11/28: "Ms Jenkins has a gift for family brutality, but she herself isn't a savage talent," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "There isn't a single moment of emotional guff or sentimentality in The Savages, a film that caused me to periodically wince, but also left me with a sense of acute pleasure, even joy. It's the pleasure of a true-to-life tale told by a director and actors who've sunk so deep into their movie together you wonder how they ever surfaced."

"It's kind of a bummer, then, that Jenkins cops out a bit at the end, tying up things a little too neatly for characters who have been so wonderfully ragged around the edges," writes Alonso Duralde for MSNBC. "But thankfully, the climax isn't so awful that it wipes out all of the film's wonderfully snappy, snippy, spiky dialogue and relationships."

"One of the best movies of the year so far," declares the Los Angeles Times' Carina Chocano. "For a tender, uncommonly perceptive look at sibling relationships and a profound meditation on death and the meaning we draw from experience, The Savages is singularly funny and seriously moving."

"In a welcome zap of cultural synergy, this week the Gallery Met opens an exhibit of artworks inspired by Hansel and Gretel, just in time to hold the sweaty, sibling hand of The Savages, Tamara Jenkins's warm, itchy, woolen jumper of a family film, as it sidles into the holiday fare fray," writes Michelle Orange at the Reeler. More a series of snapshots than family portrait, one figure is conspicuously missing from the frame: the Mother Savage. Shrugged off in a single line, her handling (as well, to some extent, as that of Lenny, who bears allusions to misbehavior that are vague at best) is symptomatic of the parental misfire in a series of recent adult sibling movies, including The Darjeeling Limited and Margot at the Wedding."

Updates, 11/29: "[S]ince the movie only teeters on the brink of a pity party without relishing the mood, the grief doesn't venture beyond the point of softcore sadness," writes Eric Kohn in the New York Press.

For Marcy Dermansky, "this well intentioned project... falls horribly flat."

Tribeca has video of Jenkins, Linney and Bosco talking about The Savages.

Ella Taylor profiles Jenkins for the LA Weekly, while Mark Olsen profiles Linney for the LAT.

Michael Guillén talks with Linney.

Updates, 11/30: Scott Tobias talks with Linney and Jenkins for the AV Club, where he writes: "As a sibling duo, Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman have a dynamic like Linney's with Mark Ruffalo in You Can Count On Me, at least in the sense that she's more together and responsible than her brother, though emotionally brittle in her own way.... The Savages charts their struggle with a humor and honesty that goes down surprisingly easy."

"The Savages has been rapturously received, not entirely without reason - Linney and Hoffman are both typically excellent, mining coarse nuggets of emotional truth from the sediment created by years of buried discontent," writes Mike D'Angelo for Nerve. "But I also think people are just inordinately happy that Jenkins - whose only previous feature, the ticklish comedy Slums of Beverly Hills, came out nine long years ago - has finally made another movie."

Mina Hochberg talks with Jenkins for Nerve.

Online listening tip. Jenkins and Bosco are guests on the Leonard Lopate Show.

"There's much more wrong than right with The Savages," writes Keith Uhlich at the House Next Door. "I can conceive of extended tortures more preferable to watching Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman (as Wendy's sad-sack professor brother Jon) play-act at sibling rivalry.... [T]here's no getting past the Actor's Studio performances of Linney and Hoffman, both awful, both confusing actorly tics and mannered tears for the subtlety and insight of a blood-tied familial relationship."

"I wouldn't call the film inspirational - it is too well observed to succumb to easy sentiment - but its realism is patiently engaging and subtly insinuating," writes Richard Schickel for Time. "And Linney and Hoffman are extraordinary; refusing to beg for our sympathy, they earn it moment by quotidian moment in performances so good, so lacking in showy effect, that they are almost certain to be overlooked this awards season. But that's OK. Honesty tends to receive its own, more lasting rewards in our remembering hearts."

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Posted by dwhudson at November 26, 2007 9:05 AM


If you're looking for a film in which the script parodies the constant "clarifications" of classic soap opera a its which there is not a moment in which hyperbole of word or action fails to replace reality or allows subtlety or which one very quickly begins to whisper the next line to one's which nothing from beginning to end seems have been said or done quite like that, in which every single sound effects from start to finish crashes in beyond rhyme or reason, this film is for you. I can't recall a more stupifyingly unpleasant treatment of a sad, tender, poingnant and inevitable experience. The biggest mysery is how actors of such caliber and clout allowed themselves to be led down such a dark path in terms of almost every reading, every action.

Posted by: Richard A. Lukin at December 7, 2007 8:25 PM