One hour and twenty-three minutes into The Savages, someone does something kind for no reason other than to be kind. No guilt is involved. It’s a simple act of kindness. It’s the first time that happens in the movie, and it’s close to the last time.
Phillip Seymour Hoffman was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance here. The category was Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy. His fellow nominees included John C. Reilly in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.
The trailer is not exactly an accurate depiction of the movie.
Hollywood marketing is weird.
All that said, it’s an interesting movie. The structure — it’s minimalistic and it’s not innovative or new. Alienation and the aging process suck; there’s only so much you can say about that. The right thing to do is to get actors of the caliber of Linney and Hoffman and put them in a more or less predictable script. That works, because it’s worth watching two hours of those two painfully not bonding over the mortality of their father.
It’s also worth watching Philip Bosco as the father, mind you. He doesn’t have a lot of physical mobility to work with, and in fact I think he’s in bed for most of his screen time. He still conveys the frustrated intelligence of a man who’s fading away and knows it. The sequence in which he and Linney fly from Arizona to Buffalo is intensely painful: nobody talks to him. He’s treated like furniture, by everyone, including his daughter, and it’s humilating; all the more so because he isn’t sure he’d remember if someone did tell him where he was going.
Until the final ten minutes or so, I was going to give Tamara Jenkins credit for not using the tragedy as an excuse to solve the problems of the siblings. Then the siblings break through both their emotional barriers and move on with their lives in appropriate fashions. Plus a dog’s life is saved, which is more schmaltz than I think the movie needs to support. So partial points for omitting all the heartwarming scenes where Linney and Hoffman cooperate to take care of Dad, because that never happens; big deductions for the nice bow that ties it all together at the end.
It’s still not any kind of a comedy, no matter what the Golden Globes say.