This is one of those movies that I thought would be tremendous--although depressingly so--but it turns out it was simply an average movie. I had high expectations that I would relish this dark comedy for four reasons: 1) The trailer makes it look great; 2) Philip Seymour Hoffman is in it; 3) It was nominated for two Oscars; 4) It was the "certified fresh pick of the week" last week on Rotten Tomatoes and scored a 97% among the "top critics" (formerly "cream of the crop")
Here, see if you think the trailer makes this look really good:
I think this movie would have had more of an impact on me had I ever been in a position to put one of my parents (or even grandparents) in a nursing home; you know, the way Bringing Out the Dead might mean more to an EMT or the way a policeman might be more heavily impacted by Narc. The problem with The Savages is that it didn't let me into their world as much as the aforementioned films did. When I was 8 or 9 my family had to put my great-grandmother in a nursing home, but I obviously wasn't aware of the situation's implications. Don't get me wrong, I was aware of the drama and turmoil of each character, but it wasn't as acute as I thought it was going to be.
The acting was good, but I felt that Hoffman was bottled up for the first half of the movie. Part of it was his character, but the other part was the [Oscar-nominated] writing. Granted, the film's main character was his sister, played quite well by [Oscar-nominated] Laura Linney, but if they had unleashed Hoffman he could have made the movie better. Consequently, I never got a true feel for Hoffman's character (which could have been purposefully done to represent the lack of rich intimacy between the two siblings ... but I doubt it). The best acting was probably done by their father, who had to walk the fine line between believability and over-the-top-ness as an elderly man with dementia.
Final Grade: C+/B-
Blurb: The Savages is close to greatness, but it's missing something and I'm not exactly sure what that "something" is. This movie will be very powerful for those who have had firsthand experience putting a loved one in a nursing home, but for those of us lucky enough to not have had that experience, this movie feels a little flat at times and hovers just above average.