Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Birthday, Bart!

That Old Exit Lane

Give director/screenwriter Tamara Jenkins some credit - aging, death, and nursing homes are neither an easy subject to approach nor a magnet for cinema audiences.

Her latest film, 'The Savages,' tackles the topic, and is downbeat but also fresh and spontaneous, and rightfully among the year's five best-reviewed movies.

Front and center are Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman (pictured right) as the now-grown children of train-wreck parents, who are forced to deal with the ailing father that failed them.

These master actors work their magic and inhabit their quirky, troubled characters with thoughtfulness and nuance.

Behold, the 5 parameters of criticism:

1. Four Words That Encapsule: "Aging, Death, Coping: Catalysts'

2. Haiku (5/7/5):
'Death taps the shoulder
reminds you you're flesh and blood;
makes you look up, breathe'

3. Oblique Comments: Philip Seymour Hoffman makes a great 'in-joke' about being in a bad Sam Sheppard play. I once saw him, live, in a bad Sam Sheppard play. : - ) I find that Sam Sheppard shows the mess and angst, but sometimes lacks subtlety and, even more importantly, context. He stubbornly refuses to give you the back story and lets you stew in conflict and read it however you like - he forgets drama is storytelling as well as catharsis. Just my opinion. PSH's character makes a great comment about 'showcase' elderly care facilities. Laura Linney is a long-time favorite actress of mine - I liked her from 'Tales in the City,' to be sure, but it 'You Can Count On Me,' the affecting brother/sister story from 2000, that really won me over... Her brother is Mark Ruffalo, which, unfortunately, does indeed rhyme with buffalo.

4. Insight: Despite some very funny moments, it's a serious, slow film. In other hands, more comedy and slapstick would have grown naturally from the situations. Certainly, that would happen in my hands, as I was laughing in advance at gags that didn't happen. In retrospect, this was admirable restraint on Tamara Jenkins' part, in that she eschewed the easy route.

5. Link: Metacritic Review, average of 86 by 22 critics! Fourth-best reviewed film of 2007 so far

Trailer of 'The Savages' - the music in the first part is Spoon's wonderful, Beatlesque 'That's The Way We Get By..'

Cartoon du Jour:

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