This Time, It's Personal: Catalog Rec: The Savages

I really need to regulate my pre-bed thoughts better. Now I'm wide awake at 12:13 in the morning because I started replaying The Strangers and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre in my head. Lovely.
First, a momentary diversion. Clive Barker fans of the world, unite! His new film, Midnight Meat Train (yes, based on the story from his Books of Blood collection), is being jerked around by Lionsgate due to a changing of the guard. Basically, the new head of distribution is getting rid of any projects he had no say in as fast and quietly as possible. Midnight Meat Train is a victim of this.
What was supposed to be a massive nationwide push in October is now a one week, 100 theater run in August. If you care to support Clive Barker’s output, he recommends sending a nice e-mail to Joe Drake - jdrake@lionsgate.com Diversion over.
Catalog Rec: The Savages (2007)
I briefly mentioned The Savages on my previous blog. This great drama/comedy from writer/director Tamara Jenkins struck a huge nerve with me due to timing in my personal life. And that coincidence made me appreciate the film all the more. Siblings John and Wendy Savage are forced to uproot their lives and careers in NYC to care for their father, suffering the ravages of Alzheimer's.
Some of the events in the film would seem, at the very least, unbelievable to people who never saw a loved one suffer from the condition. Could a person really fall so far as to write a nasty message in feces on a bathroom wall or be incapable of keeping their pants up on an airplane? Yes. Yes they can. And it’s painful.
What Tamara Jenkins does is create a film that feels so personal, so intimate, it verges on voyeurism. Wisely, she handles it with a healthy dose of dry humor. Drier than the sand in the retirement community of Sun City, AZ. She captures resentment, confusion, anger, despair, and acceptance in a way I’ve never experienced before in film.
Here’s an example of how close she followed real life: Wendy Savage (the Oscar nominated Laura Linney in a tremendous performance) is told by a worker in the rest home that her father’s feet are the key to understanding his health. Since they weren't swollen or discolored, his body was still doing all right, even if his mind failed.
I’ll go for simplicity: my grandfather died within three days of his feet swelling up and changing color. His mind was long gone but his body fought on. One of the nurses at one of his earlier hospital stays even pointed out the same fact to us. All the drama of picking the right home, all the guilt, all the red tape and theft and downright abuse felt true. It hurt. And I appreciate Jenkins’ honesty.
That isn't to say the film is flawless. The last thirty minutes or so started to feel very tired to me, though whether it was the direction or the writing (well, I don’t question one incident that had me groaning, that was all writing) I can’t be certain. What started off with such a great and unique perspective on aging and mental stability (of all the Savages) started to rely on independent film cliches that possibly could have been avoided all together. It’s worth watching at least once. You might even love it. At the least, I think you can respect the writing.
The DVD is sparse when it comes to features, but the film looks gorgeous on the small screen. And honest. So very honest.

Labels: Catalog rec