I must confess, it has been a while since my last Hoffman review but let’s pick it up with a good one, The Savages from 2007 starring Hoffman alongside Laura Linney, Philip Bosco, Peter Friedman and Gbenga Akinnagbe, about a brother and sister being handed the responsibility of looking after their ailing father. Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins who despite being nominated for an Academy award for this particular screenplay has seemingly disappeared from the business which is the ultimate shame considering the real lack of female directors out there today; for what reason I would love to know but don’t currently.
Talking about Hoffman, this is definitely one of the films that needs to be discussed, this is what he excelled at in acting (amongst a few other things), it’s understated and personal, an honest performance of a realistic character without all the pomp and glamorisation. As Jon he gives a great sense of frustration with life and the underlying issues that we all have that come out in different ways depending on the person, without being overtly obvious. He gives us a man who, without really looking you’d think was perfectly normal and fine but under the surface there’s a lot more going on; starting off as the guy who seemingly just can’t be bothered with the situation and wants to just get on with his life and slowly opening up and becoming something more interesting. Then there’s the wonderful sibling relationship between him and Linney as Wendy, a classic rivalry that even in the most serious of situations is still there in the background, driving their interaction, always wanting to be better or have more than the other. The two of them make utterly believable siblings, you can’t question for a second that you can see the friendship and connection but ultimately competition between them. Linney herself is wonderful as Wendy who constantly seems to be divided between optimism and delusion, difficult to decide whether she’s down on her luck or actually slightly crazy.
Describing Hoffman’s performance as honest, is also the perfect way to describe the film, it isn’t made to be something above what an ordinary experience would be, starting out with the whole premise of brother and sister who are suddenly saddled with an elderly father in need of care, which they don’t really want to provide but that’s just how life is. Other films may take this as an excuse to make a story of how someone gives up their life to take care of their family and how enlightening of an experience it is, when real life isn’t usually like that, and this film shows it. It’s an example of being thrown another obstacle when you’re already busy trying to sort out your own life and not in a position to become responsible for someone else’s. The film is almost grim in a sense, showing the reality of people’s lives and not what they would be if things were easy but that makes the story more compelling and relatable.
This is an intimate story, and definitely not for people who don’t like films where not a lot happens, it’s very much about familial obligation and sibling relationships, rooted in mostly dialogue. For those who are not against that type of film, it’s a captivating story with brilliant acting and its utterly normal take is surprisingly compelling.