The hands that rock the cradle sometimes tip it over. Watching "The Savages," Tamara Jenkins's beautifully nuanced tragicomedy about two floundering souls, you have to wonder if those hands didn't also knock that cradle clear across the nursery, sending both Savage children into perpetual free-fall. Certainly Jon Savage, the angry lump played by a brilliant -- oh, let's just cut to it -- the brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman, looks like a man who's taken as much abuse as he likes to deliver. One night, Jon, a college professor who lives and teaches in Buffalo, is awakened from a deep sleep (Ms. Jenkins has a nice way with metaphor) to discover that his father, Lenny (a fine Philip Bosco), has gone around the bend and has begun finger-painting with his feces. The bearer of these unfortunate tidings is Jon's younger sister, Wendy (Laura Linney, sharp and vanity free), a self-professed playwright whose greatest, perhaps only creation is the closely nurtured story of wounded narcissism and family wrongs unwinding in her head. There isn't a single moment of emotional guff or sentimentality in "The Savages," a film that caused me to periodically wince, but also left me with a sense of acute pleasure, even joy.
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