'The Savages' displays poignant truths

"The Savages" is a bittersweet, beautifully written film that takes filmgoers onto an emotional savanna where we would just as soon not go.

We know &

perhaps in the abstract, but we know &

that the arc of life will bring us all to a point when the days ahead are fewer than the days behind. And what will become of us at that point? What will be the texture of our days and the content of our lives? Who will intercede on our behalf? Can this long, incremental goodbye be faced alone?

For Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco), aging father, his final days are leeched of all lucidity and he is receding into a twilight of dementia from which there is no return.

His children, Wendy (Laura Linney) and Jon (Philip Seymour Hoffman), arrive from the East Coast to do what they can for a father who was always a stranger and is now all but unrecognizable.

The choices to be faced, wrenching in their difficulty and sadness, present themselves weighted with ambivalence and guilt. It's at this point that the film journeys into the world of assisted living or full time nursing care.

Jon angrily insists that they should ignore the landscaping, discount the grass and pleasant porticoed entryway, ignore the brochures of croquet-playing oldsters and accompanying happy-meal videos.

Such places are about dying. These are places where old people are housed as they slip away, some reluctantly, often unwilling (unwitting?) co-conspirators in their inevitable slow-motion fade, where days are to be filled and waiting is turned into an art form.

"The Savages" is poignant and wonderfully acted, relentlessly honest, often comedic and possessing a disconcerting verisimilitude from which it is impossible to turn away.

Hoffman and Linney are two of the finest actors working today, and have an ability to transform themselves, to inhabit their characters and deliver spot-on performances.

'Horton Hears a Who'

"Dr. Seus' Horton Hears a Who" is a sweet film. Sweet because Horton is such a decent, goodhearted pachyderm it's impossible not to like him. Besides, he believes that "A person's a person, no matter how small."

Some of the kids in the audience may remember Ted Seuss Geisel's story "Horton Hatches an Egg," wherein Horton discovers an abandoned egg and decides that if he is going to save the small chick inside, well, he'll have to hatch the egg himself.

And so he does, despite all kinds of weather and circumstances.

The image of Horton perched atop a tree, atop a nest, atop an egg captures his persona perfectly.

In the case of "Horton Hears a Who," because of his keen hearing (Horton has ears that would make Dumbo envious), he hears a scream coming from a small piece of lint that has landed on a pink dandelion which is floating by on an errant breeze.

As it turns out, the small tuft of white contains the entire world of Who-ville. The universe in a grain of sand.

It soon becomes Horton's mission to save Who-ville from extinction and from the cynicism of Jane Kangaroo and the Wickersham brothers, who refuse to believe that Horton has heard anything and would gladly send the dandelion and Who-ville into oblivion.

"Horton Hears a Who" evolves into a journey, as Horton tries to get the dandelion and all the citizens of Who-ville to the top of a mountain where they will be safe.

Of course, he is in peril at every turn along the way, traveling through the Jungle of Nool with Jane and the Wickershams doing everything to prevent him from arriving at his destination. In one scene, Horton crosses a collapsing rope bridge, the slats giving way, the distance to the canyon floor a mile &

that's as dramatic and tension-filled as any moment in any adventure film could be.

The animation is superb (Pixar) and, not unlike "Shrek," has enough adult lines to keep the chaperones awake and enjoying the story along with the kids.

"Horton Hears a Who" is a movie (G-rated) that the preteens will embrace.

It's wonderful. So engaging, there are very few restless moments &

that would be those times when the story slows, dialogue extends and the kids begin looking around for something to do, like go to the bathroom, lobby for another soda or gaze under their seats. "Horton Hears a Who" keeps the little guys firmly planted in those seats until the credits begin to roll.

Take those little gremlins; they'll have a fine time and so will you.

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