Two acting heavyweights join forces for this moving yet comic story focussing on fractured sibling relationships. Given that Linney and Hoffman are now Oscar regulars, it's not all that surprising to find them in this high quality movie; in fact, the former deserves her nomination for her performance here as a flawed writer struggling with relationships and work.
When their father (Bosco) causes problems for his home help, the Savages — Wendy (Linney) and Jon (Hoffman) — are forced to stop their separate lives. Struggling to come up with a solution as to how to best deal with dad, long dormant tensions start to come to the surface. The obvious answer of finding a care home disgusts Wendy, whereas Jon just wants to get on with his life and try to win back his girlfriend. As hard decisions are made, Wendy and Jon realise they have a lot more in common with another than they first thought and inadvertently help one another make big changes in their own lives.
The script and story may not jump out as a comedy, and it certainly is uncomfortable viewing at time with its frank depiction of mortality and dementia. But thanks to the expert skills of both leads, the human drama never descends into sentimentality and we often get unexpected moments of light in a breezy and honest fashion. The idea of the Savages competing with one another as writers is an interesting and amusing subtext as their actions are painfully familiar — hands up who hasn’t used the office photocopier surreptitiously to mass-copy letters?
The film's real trump card is its ability to give both leads (and even the senior Savage) enough room to perform as and when required. The ‘mid-life’ crisis card is briefly introduced, but wisely jettisoned early on as that cliché has become all too tiring. Overall, it's an engrossing if little cold drama that is as realistic as most documentaries out there.