Screenwriter: Tamara Jenkins
Distrib/Release date: Fox Searchlight/Nov. 28
Storyline: As rival siblings Jon and Wendy Savage figure out how to take care of their ailing father, who has dementia, they realize that they are taking better care of him than he ever did of them.
About the script: After a seven-year detour as a writer-for-hire following her debut movie “The Slums of Beverly Hills,” Jenkins returned to the story she started writing a decade ago about adult siblings. She penned this semi-autobiographical comedy at the Yaddo writers’ retreat at the behest of Focus Features chief James Schamus, who asked only that the script be contemporary and funny. “The heart of it is that survival thing, that desperate, scrappy, uncivilized, grabbing anything you can to stay alive. Jon and Wendy preferred their role as children, that repressed state that happens no matter how old you are,” says Jenkins.
Biggest challenge: Schamus eventually passed on the script, which took quite some time to set up, even with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney attached. “The tone was there, the subject matter, but the storyline was not a sexy sell. A brother and sister put their father in a nursing home, that is not sexy,” she says.
Breakthrough idea: “I had this five-page scene with the sister calling up the brother and describing the dad writing on the wall with his shit. It was gothic and primal. She startles him, and he’s reacting, ‘Look, it’s not a crisis, it’s an alarm.’ They have different styles. I was liking that dynamic.”
Choice line: “People are DYING Wendy! Right inside that beautiful building — right now! It’s a fucking horror show! And all this wellness propaganda and landscaping is trying to obscure the miserable fact that people die and death is gaseous and gruesome and filled with piss and shit and rot and stink!”