IBJ movie night: "The Savages"

December 17, 2007
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If you picked up your tickets to see the preview of “The Savages,” the first IBJ Night at the Movies, please share your thoughts on the film after Monday night's screening.

And look to “Lou Harry’s A&E” for information on future screenings.
  • Dark comedy about a brother and sister in their 40s forced to put their dementia-suffering father into a nursing home. I laughed, I cried, and then I laughed again, best describes my reaction. Wendy and Matt lead pathetic lives of quiet desperation. The emptiness in their lives is heartbreaking. She's a struggling playwright seeking justification for her work and life from anyone but herself. Her sole and unsatisfactory relationship is with a married man 13 years her senior. He's a college professor with no outside interests other than spending his life working on an obscure book. Although he won't admit it, and mariage is out of the question, he loves a Polish woman whose paperwork expires and she's forced to return to Poland.

    This film provides an unvarnished glimpse at the ugliness of aging and the sorrow in store for children facing the prospect of putting one or both parents into a nursing home.
  • I'm glad so many IBJ readers were able to attend.
    The strongest thing for me about the film was how much was unsaid. This is a plot that could have so easily turned into a Lifetime movie, with each character having one clear motivation for his or her behavior. It's gutsy these days for a film's characters to be this muddy...and I mean that in a good way. They felt real, with a wide mix of pros and cons. I also appreciate that the nursing home and its workers weren't presented as evil.

    The only plot point I didn't buy was Wendy believing she could fake her Gugenheim fellowship. I think she would know her brother well enough to know he would find out the truth very quickly. Besides that, I bought it all.
  • Even though the siblings are dealing with an aging parent and all their other personal issues, this shouldn't be written off as just another movie about the subject of people with memory problems as so many of these have been released in recent years (The Notebook, Away from her, Iris, Evening--the last one isn't dementia so much as dying, but still has to do with memory). If not for the free pass (thanks!) I may not have seen this movie because there seem to be so many others like it, but I'm glad I did.

    I think this film made all those end of the year top 10 lists for good reason. Even parts that in real life would probably bring me to tears (and a few of the film's more serious moments did) were mostly done in a way that was still clever enough to enjoy without crying through the whole thing. The characters were flawed, but in a relatable way. They might have been annoying at times, but I could also understand where they were coming from in terms of dealing with their situation and hoped that things would somehow work out for them in the end (even if they lied and were self-absorbed, which may also have something to do with their relationship with their father they must now take care of, but the movie doesn't hit audiences over the head with that idea, other than a few hints here and there).

    And laughing at this movie despite the heavy subject matter is like looking back on something horrible after enough time has passed so the truly weird/inappropriate parts of what happened are finally OK to laugh at. Or maybe if I didn't laugh, I would have been sucked into the sad parts to the point of not enjoying the not-so-sad parts. If you miss this at the theater, at least try to check it out on DVD.

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