A review of “The Savages” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for profanity and sexual situations

Run Time: 1 hour, 53 minutes

 

 

          Parenting your parents is a tough row to hoe as supported by Tamara Jenkins’ bittersweet family dramedy.

          Thanks to the whip-smart work of top thesps Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman the pain of dealing with an aging father comes full circle.

Jon (Hoffman) and Wendy (Linney) Savage spend their self-absorbed days seeking approval from their writing, their teaching and their dysfunctional personal relationships.

          When their retired, Arizona-based dad (Philip Bosco) starts writing on the walls in excrement it appears the jig is up. Brother and sister are forced to abandon their East Coast foxholes and join forces to act on their father’s behalf.

          Easier said than done as teaching the theater of social unrest isn’t adequate emotional preparation for facing your past and dealing with an unsettling present.

          Jon and Wendy admit Dad to the hospital and sag under the weight of his vascular dementia tremors, geriatric confusion and Sun City malaise. Next stop the Valley View Rehab Center, with a disheartening “view” of the concrete parking lot.

          “Savages” begs the question of responsibility for your elders, and ultimately for yourself. The trials of the sandwich generation are laced with dark humor; seat-squirmingly uncomfortable rather than laugh out loud funny.

As the sibs ride out the holidays in helplessly harrowing fashion they ultimately confront what all the MFAs and PhDs in the world can’t prepare them for: life’s inevitable decline.

Naturally both Linney and Hoffman are superb, glowing with innate talent while digging deep into the recesses of childhood scars and adult neuroses. Linney is a standout as the brand of female whose nurturing is limited to pets and the pills required to get through the day. Scripting intermittently flags but picks up and brushes itself off when need be.

Affecting and dangerously close to home.