The Savages

First off, when I heard this movie was about a brother and sister who have grown apart-- brought together because their dementia'd father-- I sort of rolled my eyes at the idea of sitting through it. Sounded like a true downer yawner. And in the first five minutes I had the feeling I was in for a rough ride of sappy melodramacrap that is only worthwhile for the acting performances. Like if it was Keanu Reefs and Tara Reid in the same roles it would expose what a cheap shot this movie is. I refused to be fooled. There was no way that Philip Seymund Hoffburg and Lonnie Linney would distract me from the fact that I was watching something secretly bad. My guard was way up and I pre-judged this thing arms folded as soon as it stared.

For the first ten minutes,  I suspected I was correct. Tinkily pianos. Bright colors. Crafty directorial mood tricks. Everything was in place for an f-arthouse Hallmark weepy wallow. But I was soon happy to find out that this movie isn't that. It slowly inhaled my attention and didn't exhale it till the end. I just kept appreciating the fact that it didn't spill movie spaghetti sauce all over its shirt. It didn't overreach for the obvious. No clobbery plot-twist. Dementia Dad didn't have outbursts of wizened clarity. No scene of fake heightened tension fueled by forced hysterical epiphanies. No overly aggressive friend. And a Wilco Summerteeth song didn't float over a montage. It actually was much smarter than all of that by crutching onto none of it.

As I watched Seymour (always better than I remember him being) Hoffburg and Lonnie (so very beautiful with her little girl face) Linney disappear into their characters and deliver the most convincing brother/sister relationship that I've seen in a long time-- I felt myself happy even though the movie was sad. I stared at this flick-- sort of amazed how much I was liking it to the point where I started to factor in the holiday blues as working in its favor. Feeling badly (but not terrible) for these two people who both stalled out on life for whatever reason-- and appreciating that the flick didn't backtrack to explain why they conked out. No flashback to parental fighting. No dream sequences. No memento that triggers an avalanche of pent up emotions. Just normal people forced to poke their heads out of their shells due to circumstance. And keeping it neurotically real.

And the Dad, who I mistook for Alan Alda (meaning Alan Arkin and he was neither) does a really nice tiptoe on the tightwalk between reality and nowhere-- half-unaware that he's even teetering on anything. Just sort of mentally leaving. And the reality of children dealing with that situation was comfortably uncomfortable. I munched away at this flick like a nice salad with good dressing and crisp cukes. And although it's a cryable movie-- there was enough comedy stuff popping up here and there that kept the idea of crying out of sight for me. No tears. Umm... until the last shot of the movie which was a bit of a sucker punch-- that I was a total sucker for...  of course.

Three Good Things About this Movie

- Just about everyone in the movie came off as totally natural.
- Nobody worked too hard to win over your heart or any of that crap.
- It had some good bad funny.

Three Bad Things About this Movie

- It was cutesy.
- I have no desire to see it again.
- Not enough strip club and bikini beach scenes.

All in all, I dug this movie much more than I imagined I would. Especially with my attitude about it going in. It's not a movie that leaps off to anywhere extra special-- but it didn't really try to. Which was a relief from recent movies which sort of overreach for added respectability. This movie didn't demand anything from me. It was scary without using scare tactics. And funny without being hammy. And touching without actually physically touching me. And great-- without groping for greatness.