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Linney on Nursing Homes: “The Savages”

Savages.jpgWhen I ask Laura Linney if getting the green light for a movie set extensively in nursing homes was easy, she leans forward and lets out a loud, disbelieving “God no!” She’s meeting with journalists at the Ritz Carlton hotel in Boston, and she follows with a qualifier. “It’s the dreaded topic,” the actress says. “It instills dread in almost anyone. Thinking about it, having to face it, putting someone there, being in there. But guess what? If it’s a good place? I want to go.”
She does, in Tamara Jenkins’ new comic drama, “The Savages,” starring with Philip Seymour Hoffman as half of a brother-sister duo coping with putting their father Lenny (Philip Bosco) in a nursing home. The film is one of the first movies released by a major studio (Fox Searchlight) that deals with the topic – “Away from Her,” Sarah Polley’s adaptation of Alice Munro’s story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain,” treaded similar territory. While that film focused on a man losing his wife to Alzheimer’s, the ailing Lenny Savage suffers from dementia. Both deal with the culture of elder care, portrayed as foreign and tragic to grown children and spouses faced with the prospect of turning their loved one over to a slew of anonymous nurses.

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“It’s just an emotionally devastating thing to do,” Linney says. “You feel like you’re failing someone. It brings up all sorts of fear.”
In “The Savages,” much of her on-screen sparring with Hoffman is over the level of care Lenny’s getting, as Hoffman’s Jon – a realist – is content to keep their father in the nursing home near his Buffalo house and Linney’s child-like, guilt-ridden Wendy pushes to move him to posher facilities that require interviews and tests. Though Linney says she didn’t intentionally draw from personal experience (her own grandmother was in a nursing home), it seems as though working on the film pushed her to have a difficult, yet essential, conversation with her own older relatives.
“The one thing I did was I sat down with the relatives who hopefully, if I outlive them, I will see them through the end of their lives, and I’m privileged to have that responsibility,” she says, adding that, “I know that when that time comes I’m going to be a mess. I’m not going to see straight. I’m not going to be able to make decisions. I’m going to be in the depths of fear and grief. But when I sat down, I (said) ‘You have to help me, now. I want to know what you want. Let’s do this now so that we can do it while I can laugh about it and you can laugh about it. We can make jokes about it, and then I’ll know what to do. Because I’m going to be all alone and I’m not going to be able to function. Help me now so I can do the right thing when the time comes.’”
-written by Jenny Halper

  • susan

    I am soooooooooooo looking forward to this movie. Having dealt with Alzheimer’s, a retirment home, an assisted living facility, and Alzheimer’s unit in a nursing home, and currently a Hospice venue, I have been through every stage and heart wrenching decision that had to be made concerning my Mom’s care. The range of emotion and indecision as to what is right for the individual is astounding. I have already started talking to my grown children about my wishes and we have met with an attorney to get things down on paper so they won’t have to go through the guilt ridden decision process we have.
    I KNOW what I want, where I want to be and how I want to be treated. I want to make known those decisions so there will be no responsibility or derision between my surviving children or spouse. It gives me peace to know that what I want (while I am in a reasonably healthy state of mind) will be carried out in my later years.
    I see this movie as a “wake-up” call to the vast number of baby boomers who are now or will be in the near future, dealing with this tough situation.
    Kudo’s to those who have worked to get this much needed subject up on the big screen for the benefit of those of us who will be the individuals handling these issues.
    Susan Warrick
    Loving Daughter
    Interior Designer

  • Claudine Erlandson

    I recently saw the film and while it can be depressing I recommended it to my children and friends. It concerns both sides, parents (when their mind is still ok) and children or relatives and close friends responsible when that “time” comes. Because I am getting there, 70 this year, this film is making me take a closer look at my will and I will do some updating with more detailed instructions.
    The best scene in film is the very last one, a wonderful positive scene w/ the Doggie. I hate to reveal the ending but it was what made the film so incredibly moving and hopeful. Indeed, there is always hope and better solutions to what seems so final and hopeless.

  • http://www.residentialcaregateway.com RCFE Investing

    Residential Care Facilities are the future of not only the health care industry, but also the Real Estate Investment world. It will not only help the eldery, it will also ease the housing shortage.

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