Posts Tagged The Savages

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman [1967-2014]


–born in the Rochester, New York on July 23, 1967
–attended New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, graduating with a B.F.A. degree in Drama in 1989.
–died of suspected heroin overdose on February 2, 2014.

My Favorite Hoffman Films:

the savages

The Savages [2007]
written and directed by: Tamara Jenkins
also starring: Laura Linney, Philip Bosco
–siblings (Laura Linney plays his sister) must deal with their father’s rapid demise and thus face their own lives– their presents, their futures, their lost potential.

before the devil knows

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead [2007]
written by: Kelly Masterson
directed by: Sidney Lumet
also starring: Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei, Albert Finney
–two brothers organize the robbery of their parents’ jewelry and the job goes horribly wrong.


A Late Quartet [2012]
written by: Seth Grossman, Yaron Zilberman
directed by:Yaron Zilberman
also starring: Catherine Keenar, Chistopher Walken
–members of a world-renowned string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and lust.


Capote [2005]
written by: Dan Futterman
directed by: Bennett Miller
also starring: Clifton Collins Jr., Catherine Keener
–while researching his book In Cold Blood, an account of the murder of a Kansas family, Truman Capote develops a close relationship with Perry Smith, one of the killers.

the master

The Master [2012]
written and directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson
also starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams
–a Naval veteran arrives home from war unsettled and uncertain of his future – until he is tantalized by The Cause and its charismatic leader.


Doubt [2008]
written and directed by: John Patrick Shanley
also starring: Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Amy Adams
—a Catholic school principal questions a priest’s ambiguous relationship with a troubled young student.

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film review: The Savages

We’re taking better care of the old man than he did of us.

In this remarkable film, two siblings, short of their goals, come together to take care of their father who suffers from dementia. Wendy [Laura Linney] is an aspiring playwright/temp who’s having an affair with a married guy [I have an MFA! This is ridiculous] and keeps applying for fellowships to support her creative endeavors [fellowships that she’s unqualified for, nor will ever receive]. Her brother, Jon [Philip Seymour Hoffman], lives in Buffalo and teaches philosophy and is an expert on Bertolt Brecht. For years, he has been tolling away on a book about the dramatist. After four years, his Polish girlfriend’s visa has run out and instead of helping her or committing to her, he just drives her to the airport. He cries when she cooks him eggs, but isn’t sure if it could work out between them.

This is another role in which Hoffman can stretch. After his turns as a smarmy, conniving brother in Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead and as a sarcastic, anti-Bond CIA agent in Charlie Wilson’s War, you could say Hoffman has had quite the year in cinema. I first noticed Linney [and loved her] in the Tales of the City miniseries. Linney [The Nanny Diaries, Breach] chooses unique, layered roles and has been consistently good through the years. Both actors are from New York and are theatrically trained. And both are super talented in basically un-flashy supporting roles or leading roles in independent films that are rarely seen [like this one]. Linney graduated from Brown and then Julliard. Hoffman from New York University. As brother and sister, it’s a joy to watch these pros play off each other. The siblings nearly balance each other out: messy Jon has a laissez-faire attitude; neatnik Wendy constantly stresses.

The stellar screenplay is poignant, biting, smart, and honest. Writer/director Tamara Jenkins [The Slums of Beverly Hills] has a deft eye for the nuances of human frailties, shortcomings and she’s got a lot of the details in there: the “happy” decorations at the rehab facility/nursing home, the lucid moments inter-mixed with confusion, a child’s need to ignore reality and the final acceptance. Some parts were hard for me for two reasons: one, my grandmother had dementia and died in April and two, I worked at a nursing home, where one week someone would be fine and the next not eating or on oxygen. I appreciate that Jenkins could combine humor [an uncomfortable screening of The Jazz Singer] with heartfelt moments [Wendy brings in a lava lamp to spruce up her father’s room]. There’s a purity and humanity to her outlook. Yes, these are pill-popping, dysfunctional and in many ways unlikeable adults but many of their choices and their experiences are relatable. The Savages covers thorny subject matter with originality.

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