10 December 2007...2:18 am

It Has Turned The Color Of Gold

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I saw The Savages tonight. On the walk to the theater I called my mother to ask whether or not a week long sinus infection meant I should go to the doctor or just whether I should wait and continue to produce snowstorms of tissues in stomach-turning colors. She said doctor, and asked what movie I was seeing.

The Savages! Phil Bosco’s movie. It’s not Phil Bosco’s movie exactly; as it happens, a triumvirate of Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Bosco means that it’s impossible for it to be any one person’s movie, but she knew what I meant.

Oh, I’ve been wanting to see that, she said.

I think it’s exactly the kind of movie I like. About people who are disaffected and also a family. My mother said yes, that was exactly the kind of movie she liked, too.


The movie was a delight. I had spent most of the day feeling like a complete sinus-infected idiot for some ill-advised drunk dialing I did last night, in which I unsuccessfully attempted to reason someone into letting me come to his apartment and sleep with him at two-thirty in the morning, but the social failings of Laura Linney’s character, Wendy, were awful enough to feel redeeming.


Wendy a self-declared playwright, although no one except a nursing home aide seems to think she has a talent. Her brother, Philip Seymour Hoffman in a role so rumpled it made me wish I’d used my powers of logic I mean seduction on him last night, is Jon, a drama professor. He has more academic cred than his sister, but he also drags around an unspoken artistic ambition that seems to echo his sister’s. Jon is better at hiding himself than Wendy is, and he is also better at leaving someone he loves. But isn’t that always how it goes?


The Savages is a film about theater in several ways. It was perfect for a self-consciously New York audience; when an actor in a play rehearsal asks “should I react when that happens?” everyone in the movie theater who’d ever been near a play rehearsal took great pleasure in their knowing laughter.

I am, perhaps obviously, no stranger to self-congratulation. I am not sure if I appreciated the Richard Foreman poster leaning against the wall of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character’s living room because I know who Richard Foreman is or because it was honest. Hopefully both.

There was a classlessly loud woman sitting behind me in the theater, who made sure her companions knew exactly why she was laughing and what she knew was going to happen next. Afterwards, I saw that she was sitting with her parents, and I forgave her a little. I always want my parents to think I am very smart, too; as it happens, that’s what The Savages is about. That woman remained annoying, but poignantly so.

At one point, she declared that “Philip Bosco is going to win an Oscar for this.” Philip Bosco is a very fine actor, but I’m unenthused by the

actor plays crazy/ill/fat (sexy/cool?) character=Academy Award

equation. In this case, the illness is dementia, probably brought on by Parkinson’s, so Philip Bosco spends most of the film grunting bitchy things.

His son doesn’t seem to care, but his daughter does. It becomes clear that her father’s current meanness pales in comparison to what he did to his children in their youth, but this history makes Wendy want to take even better care of her father. She is lonely, and lonley people often think that the solution to their loneliness is lavishing unearned love (see my episode last night), but she also seems bored. Wendy wants to make her heroic defense of her father into a drama in which she is the star, and so Jon is right when he calls his sister selfish.


The honesty of The Savages goes beyond the narrative’s dispensing with laborious backstories and tidy endings (okay, so there’s a Golden Retriever and sunshine in the last scene but occasionally such lapses are pardonable). The casting itself relied significantly on theater actors, which gave the the film a basic righteousness and, more concretely, an uncommonly talented supporting ensemble.


I took a cab home on my own dime after the show, which is pretty unprecedented school-night behavior. I just wanted to see the city and breathe the air, not because The Savages reminded me of my love affair with New York–many things do–but because it imparted a certain forgiveness and peace. Wendy and Jon are both pathetic. Wendy is a liar who is having an affair with a very married man–she tells him she might have “a cervical thing” and while he’s kissing her for it he says “my wife had that”–and Jon is a misanthrope who is a bitter lover, but they are a family and they go on living.

Bosco’s character, as it happens, does not. He remains, though, the character least transformed by the final events of his life. He’s not really aware of them, fine, but you get the sense that there isn’t much hope for a man who has lived selfishly for so long, anyway. His children are a different story. As ancient as that message is, it still made me feel worthy enough to spend fifteen dollars going home in a cab.

The pictures in this post are from a visit to Morocco; in the spirit of forgiveness and families and a conversation I had with him earlier today, I hope Jason doesn’t mind that I’m going to post this one:


jason: I feel like I’m turning into an old jewish man

6:19 PM me: you are kind of like an old jewish man

jason: already?

me: but I imagine you were like an old jewish man when you were, like, seventeen. I like it! I like your kvetching! if that’s what you’re talking about.

6:20 PM jason: yeah there’s plenty of that


jason: I’ve developed a cough. Weird stomach issues.

me: oh that stinks

jason: insatiable hunger

dry skin

me: oh, jason!

jason: weird colored tongue

me: yikes

jason: itchy kneecaps

6:26 PM me: hahah

jason: it just keeps going. did I tell you it has turned the color of…gold?

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