May 1st, 2008

THE SAVAGES (2007) ***

Two of the best actors in recent years, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney star in this depressing but often funny movie from director Tamara (The Slums of Beverly Hills) Jenkins as siblings who must put their lives on hold when they have to stick their deadbeat delusional dad (Phillip Bosco from F/X 2:  The Deadly Art of Illusion) in a nursing home.  At first glance, this may seem like a sappy melodrama, but the flick actually works thanks to the excellent performances by the three leads. 

 

If you’ve ever had to put a loved one into a nursing home (like me), a lot of what this movie has to say will hit home for you.  It doesn’t pull any punches and thankfully refrains from descending into sitcom like clichés.  A lot of the humor is very dark (at one point the dementia ridden father starts writing profane graffiti using his own feces), but most of it is akin to a Wes Anderson movie and not something you’d see on “Must See TV”, or some shit like that. 

 

Although the movie could’ve benefited from some more disciplined editing (the pacing tends to meander occasionally), it’s the performances that make everything worthwhile.  I don’t think I’ve seen Linney or Hoffman give a bad performance yet.  They are both superb here and they really make you believe that they are brother and sister.  It was also nice seeing the villain from F/X 2:  The Deadly Art of Illusion being given a meaty role for a change as the shit smearing senile senior. 

SISTERS (2008) *

 

The original 1973 version of Sisters was an extremely well crafted and enormously suspenseful horror flick that also happened to be one of the best movies that Brian DePalma ever made.  It told the story of a pair of Siamese twin sisters who were separated at birth.  One was a model; the other was a nutjob that liked to slice up people with a kitchen knife.  If you’ve never seen the original, I wouldn’t dream of spoiling the many surprises it contains and I highly suggest you check that flick out instead of this lame-o straight to DVD remake.

 

In the ’73 Sisters, DePalma slyly borrowed many elements from the Master, Alfred Hitchcock, but combined the shocks intelligently and was able to put his own unique spin on them.  This unnecessary remake doesn’t even have the good sense to rip off DePalma.

 

The basic plot is more or less the same in this one, but the movie is completely devoid of any style that made DePalma’s version so memorable.  Consider the scene where the nosy reporter witnesses the psycho sister commit a murder.  In the original, this scene was the centerpiece of the film.  Here, it’s just another plot device.  Whereas DePalma used split screen to show you simultaneously the reporter urging the cops to check out her story as well as the creepy doctor disposing of the incriminating body, Douglas Buck, the talentless hack director of this version, chops the scenes up and plays them separately, effectively ruining any potential of suspense they may have had. 

 

During DePalma’s scene, your ass was on the edge of your seat.  In Buck’s version, your finger will be on the edge of the fast forward button.

 

So is it really worth sitting through a pointlessly irritating retread of Sisters that lacks the innovative camerawork, compelling characters and surprising plot twists that made the original so great?  In a word, no; but if you want to see Chloe (The Brown Bunny) Sevigny give one of the worst performances in recent memory as the butch reporter, then knock yourself out.