Thursday, April 23, 2009
The Savages. Feature film. (2007, 114 mins) IMDB
avages refers to the name of the family. There's Lenny, an old and estranged father, and Wendy, his daughter, and Jon, his son.
Lenny lives in Arizona with a girlfriend. She's as old as him--maybe older. Just as we "get to know her" she dies. With her death, Lenny has no place to stay. His children are called and asked to help. Jon travels from Buffalo and Wendy from NYC. What follows in the movie is how the two siblings deal with their estranged father and the impact it has on their lives.
Wendy lives in Manhattan. We first meet her working in an office where instead of working for her employer, she steals office supplies, writes up applications for grants and uses the postage meter to mail her applications. She lives alone in a small apartment. A neighbour visits. His wife thinks he's out walking the dog, but instead he's fucking Wendy. Not only is he married, but he's older. There's a look on Wendy's face that says, this is the best I can do and puts up with him.
Jon has a Ph.D in theatre. He teaches at some unstated college. He's working on a book about Bertolt Brecht. He lives in an old house cluttered with books and papers. He has a girlfriend who is Polish but since her visa has expired must leave the country. He won't marry her, which would allow her to stay, because, well, he has his reasons.
The bulk of the story deals with the siblings and their father. The step by step process of figuring out where he is and what state he is in and what to do from there. They find him in a hospital and decide to relocate him to a nursing home in Buffalo.
The father doesn't have a lot to say or do in the film. He spends most of his time asleep or semi-comatose. When he does speak it's to emphasize the fact he's losing his mind and just isn't with it. Not an effective character.
Jon spends his time being dutiful because he has to and he just wants to get it over with so he can get on with his life. He has as much joy about what he's doing as he would carrying the garbage to the curb.
Wendy is the true hero of this story. I suppose that's not surprising since the film is written by a woman. She realizes her relationship with a married man isn't such a good idea and ends it. She lies about getting a grant, but manages to get her play in production with a small theatre in NYC. It's a tiny step, but a step forward.
The film tries to shock us with the outrageous behaviour of the father (mostly related to bodily functions). I was neither shocked or outraged, simply annoyed. Do we really need to see this? Of course not. A man in diapers isn't interesting. Where's the wit? Where's the insight? Where's something other than the obvious.
The ending is telegraphed and sudden and not realistic. Lenny could have lived another five or ten years, but the story didn't call for that.
Posted 2009/04/23 at 19h19ET in Movie Commentary.