Savages, The

MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +3

Content: -4

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney, Philip Bosco. Drama. Written & Directed by Tamara Jenkins.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Two siblings are faced with what to do with their domineering, dispassionate father, who now faces his remaining days in a nursing home. As his dementia takes over, the brother and sister are forced to contend with past hurts.

PREVIEW REVIEW: Its not that I have a problem with this film, per se. It deals with dysfunction among family members and dementia of the aged, subjects that touch most of us at some point. And certainly those involved in the production, both before and behind the camera, are so good at their professions that we are easily drawn into the production. But my goodness, its depressing. If it distinguished itself as the lone depressing film of the year, that in itself might give it profundity. As it stands, its only one of many. (Before the Devil Knows Youre Dead has two brothers from a dysfunctional family robbing their parents. Margo at the Wedding deals with dysfunctional sisters at a dysfunctional nuptials gathering. The Kite Runner shows a dysfunctional childhood friendship in the midst of a dysfunctional third world crisis. No Country for Old Men concerns a dysfunctional hit man. Then theres Things We Lost in the Fire, about a new widow and a drug-addicted acquaintance dealing with a dysfunctional friendship, The Assassination of Jesse James, about dysfunctional outlaws. The Brave One, about a dysfunctional vigilante, The Bucket List, about a dying dysfunctional billionaire, The 11th Hour, about a dysfunctional climate, Darfur Now, about a dysfunctional world, and then theres that trio of anti-Bush/anti-war assaults, Rendition, Lions For Lambs and The Valley of Elah.) Enough with the dysfunctional already!

The film industry always brings out its big guns during the month of December, hoping to garner serious attention for the upcoming award season. Throughout the year, theyve given us mainly crude comedies, comic book action and special effects that make lots of noise. To make up for luring us into theaters only to be entertained by a years worth of mediocrity and senselessness, Hollywood attempts to examine the soul of man in the waning months. And with few exceptions, the industry addresses these subjects without those old pesky Bible scriptures. Its a kind of dysfunctional conscience.

I come back to the quality of the film. Its there. But the answer seems so shallow, mainly because its man (or woman) addressing lifes terrors from a humanistic approach. Even the old man, well played by Philip Bosco, is an angry man, evidently accustomed to profaning Gods name at the slightest displeasure. Yes, hes out of it at this point, but the reaction of his grown kids and their lifestyles suggest that reverence for God was not of a high order in this family unit.

Id like to add a personal note, if I may, concerning dementia that can bring such devastation to the families of the aged. My grandma died when she was 105. She had many children and spent a life following Christs teaching to love others. At the end, she didnt recognize her own children. She was pretty out of it. But, despite the loss of memory, somehow she still knew Jesus. She kept praying and singing hymns. That says something about our faith, doesnt it? It goes beyond a Norman Vincent Peale positive thinking philosophy. If a woman cant remember her own children, but still stays in touch with her Lord and Savior, then there must truly be something that links us spiritually to the Creator.

DVD alternative: A Vow To Cherish. This film pointedly examines the effect Alzheimer's disease has on a family. It presents three-dimensional people who find fulfillment and strength through Christ. (Made by Billy Grahams World Wide Pictures, check with your local Christian bookstore.)

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
20th Century Fox

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: An elderly man with dementia writes a crude word on the bathroom wall with his own feces.

Obscene Language: Around 10 obscenities, mostly the f-word.

Profanity: Three profane uses of Gods name and three of Christs.

Violence: None, but two elderly people suddenly die.

Sex: Two main characters, father and son, live with someone outside marriage; the daughter is having an affair with a married man; two sexual situations.

Nudity: None, but the sex act is graphic in one scene.

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Several sexual conversations, mostly handled with biting wit.

Drugs: Both siblings use prescription drugs not always their own.

Other: Most of the content is used to reveal dysfunction in the lives of the main characters.

Running Time: 113 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

Click HERE for a PRINTER-FRIENDLY version of this review.