Reviewer's grade: B
Dad doesn't recognize his own children. Dad writes the word "prick" on the bathroom wall using his own finger and fecal matter. Dad still thinks it's acceptable to laugh at white men in blackface. In real life, this is the stuff of tragedy, but in "The Savages," it's all part of a recipe for levity.
Don't ask me how writer/director Tamara Jenkins does it, but her story of an estranged brother and sister (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney) charged with the inevitable task of placing their abusive father in a retirement home transcends all its made-for-Lifetime elements to become a smart indie comedy.
You can cry if you want to, but Jenkins and company never try to wring that out of you; laughing, however, is another story, and it's perfectly acceptable to. In fact, they'd rather you did. Hoffman and Linney own this one; it's tough to imagine there being a movie here without them. R