The Savages

Rated 4.0

The “Savages” of the title are a pair of siblings, Jon and Wendy, and their estranged and distant father, Lenny Savage. The children, grown up but not exactly happy and fulfilled, are drawn into an uneasy family reunion when Lenny (Philip Bosco), fading into dementia, must be retrieved from his retirement home in Arizona and brought back to Buffalo, N.Y. Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is a rather tattered-looking college professor. Younger sister Wendy (Laura Linney) is an aspiring playwright who so far has had no success. Neither is particularly glad to be back in this unmistakably broken family circle, but neither can dismiss the needs of the other—or of their irrevocably disdainful father. Writer-director Tamara Jenkins (The Slums of Beverly Hills) presents this grimly topical, warts-and-all stuff as very dark comedy, laced (but not exactly leavened by) sardonic humor and a gruff, tenuous compassion. Her award-winning (and Oscar-nominated) screenplay tiptoes skillfully and winningly through the disparate territories of romantic comedy, downbeat psychodrama and American-style family tragedy, and Hoffman and Linney respond with superbly nuanced performances that are both sensitive and unsentimental. Pageant Theatre. Rated R