Savages, The – A Movie Review

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Jan 052009
 

The Savages Movie PosterThe last thing the two Savage siblings ever wanted to do was look back at their difficult family history. Having wriggled their way out from beneath their father’s domineering thumb, they are now firmly cocooned in their own complicated lives. Wendy is a struggling East Village playwright, AKA a temp who spends her days applying for grants, stealing office supplies and dating her very married neighbor. Jon is a neurotic college professor writing books on obscure subjects in Buffalo. Then comes the call that informs them that the father they have long feared and avoided, Lenny Savage, is slowly being consumed by dementia and they are the only ones that can help. Now, as they put their already arrested lives on hold, Wendy and Jon are forced to live together under one roof for the first time since childhood, rediscovering the eccentricities that drove each other crazy. Faced with complete upheaval and battling over how to handle their father’s final days, they are confronted with what adulthood, family and, most surprisingly, each other are really about.

Genres: Drama; Running Time: 1 hr. 53 min.; Release Date: November 28th, 2007 (limited); MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and language.

Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, Philip Bosco, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Cara Seymour

Directed by
: Tamara Jenkins

Lay and I watched this on DVD Saturday night, and were both very pleasantly surprised. I expected a big attempt at a tear-jerker. While the story does concern the problems visited on us by aging, this is a funny, insightful, realistic story about a brother and sister who have to take on a problem that most of us sooner or later face.

Hoffman and Linney are both just terrific, and their roles are more 3 dimensional than we usually see in a film about dealing with the family crisis du jour. Both manage to take relatively unsympathetic, selfish, immature and emotionally stunted people to a place where we can understand and even like them, much like we do the family black sheep ne’er do wells in our own families.

There are some uncomfortable moments of recognition for peope who might have had the experience of having to institutionalize an aging parent or loved one–the guilt, the fear, the resentment, the family strife, the sadness. But there is also humor and even some relatively uplifting moments when these siblings manage to rise to the occasion even as they are dragged kicking and screaming to responsibility for seeing to it that an imperfect parent has at least some dignity and quality of life at the end.

The cinematography was minimalist and realistic and really stood out to me and helped tell the story. The sense of mood and place was very well done.

[ratings]

Breach

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Feb 232007
 

BreachBased on the true story, FBI upstart Eric O’Neill enters into a power game with his boss, Robert Hanssen, an agent who was ultimately convicted of selling secrets to the Soviet Union. (view trailer)

Directed by
Billy Ray

Genres
Drama / Thriller

Cast
Chris Cooper, Ryan Phillippe, Laura Linney, Caroline Dhavernas, Gary Cole, Dennis Haysbert, Kathleen Quinlan, Bruce Davison, Jonathan Watton, Tom Barnett, Jonathan Potts

Breach is based on the true story of the capture of Robert Hanssen, an FBI agent responsible for many treasonous acts against the United States. Chris Cooper is excellent throughout in portraying a Catholic family man who goes to church constantly with his wife and kids while hiding his sexual perversions. Ryan Phillippe is Eric O’Neill, Hanssen’s new assistant who is assigned by boss Laura Linney to keep tabs on Hanssen to use as evidence against him. Caroline Dhavernas as Eric’s European wife who wants Eric to come clean about his job, Gary Cole as another agent, and Dennis Haysbert as Linney’s superior round out the fine cast in a film that slowly but surely builds up suspense in the various ways of snooping that brings the bureau closer to catching Hanssen in the act of treason. Don’t expect James Bond or Alias action here. Do expect an excellent drama about an agent who almost slipped from the FBI’s hands.

Chris Cooper, already an established actor, gives the performance of a lifetime. Cooper convincingly portrays the smugness, cockiness, and “holier than thou” attitude which eventually (in my eyes) led to Hansen’s downfall.

The movie is tense and moves swiftly without compromising the story line. Ryan Phillipe is equally impressive as the young FBI employee who is brought on to earn Hansen’s trust and find out what made him tick.

This is a must-see – I saw it with about 100 people … and from what I heard, almost everyone was still talking about it afterward as they walked out and in the bathrooms – and all were great comments.

Definitely an early Oscar contender for 2008 in my opinion.

[ratings]