Last Updated: December 2, 2007By

(BY ALI NADERZAD) There’s something inherently morbid (but also terribly funny ) about The Savages, a new film written and directed by Tamara Jenkins. Lenny Savage (Phillip Bosco) is an elderly man who, because of senility and dementia, has completely regressed into infantilism–albeit a bitter and angry kind of infantilism. He is incontinent, blurts out strange sentences and is generally in dire need of help. The film’s message is made clear to us from the get-go: everybody dies. Enter Lenny’s two children. There’s the neurotic-depressive Wendy (Laura Linney) and neurotic -depressive-with-crying tendencies Jon (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) Savages. Jon works as a drama professor in upstate New York and Wendy is a dramatist living in Manhattan. Yes, I thought so too, the professions are a great fit. These two are not estranged, per se, but they don’t speak very often. Their mother quit them a long time ago and their father, well, he wasn’t such a great father. But now Lenny Savage is in need of a new home and the two siblings have to conjure half-humane living arrangements near where Jon lives. They visit the area assisted living homes, Wendy torn with guilt and Jon wearing the mask of perfect resignation. Here is where The Savages get a little too stereotypical, but we forgive, we forgive, we forgive. What drives The Savages to the act is the energizing acrimony that exists between the two siblings. Because as you can guess, Phillip Seymour Hoffman does acrimony well. He isJon Savage although Jon Savage cries a little too much in this movie, and I like to think that Hoffman is not a cry-baby; it would erode my confidence in him as our leading American thespian. Ultimately, the film suffers from the same mid-life crisis that is portrayed in it: Jon and Wendy Savage suffer from the same travails that any forty-something mad enough to pursue a career in the dramatic arts: they are neurotic and broke. Intermittently, we are also shown both of them suffering from mid-life crises, apparently–he’s dating a young Polish woman and she is fulfilling sexual fantasies with a married neighbor. It’s all immensely pathetic, but sometimes celibate living can be just that. For ultimately The Savages isn’t about tending to an old man who is waiting to die, it’s about what two lonely fortysomethings do when their lives’ cozier furnishings are taken away from them. You’ll love this funny and acerbic movie which strikes all the right notes, until the very end. The final scene tries a little too hard to tug at the heart’s strings and it feels out of place with the rest of this otherwise unsentimental screenplay. It’s regrettable the filmmaker allowed it to remain in the final cut, but easily forgiveable.