The Savages

Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman are both such good actors that they could sit in a pile of dog turds and read transcripts of Dane Cook routines, and I’d still pay to watch them. Luckily, The Savages is a work that’s worthy of their talents. Tamara Jenkins, who made Slums of Beverley Hills, far exceeds the quality of her earlier (though still quite good) work with this depressingly pragmatic story about the grown children of an absent father dealing with his dementia. Both are self-involved writers, and neither has had the kind of success they want; they’re also split on how to make their father’s final days livable. The script is witty without ever putting the comedy ahead of the characters, and the cinematography and set design are dank, crowded and as unpleasant as the basement apartment of a 50-year-old bachelor. A beautiful score by Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) casts a warm sadness over the whole thing, creating a tiny package of feelings that’s about 215 percent better than anything with buckets, lists or a sun setting on a desert mountain.

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