In this witty dramedy, writer/director Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills) displays her talent by telling a bizarre family story. The tale is about the strained relationship between a middle-aged brother and sister, neither of whom ever married, and how they must come to grips with caring for their once emotionally abusive and neglectful father who is now elderly and suffers from dementia.
The siblings are Jon and Wendy Savage (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney). Jon, the older brother, is a neurotic English Theater professor in Buffalo, New York, who preaches obscure social reform issues and has romantic problems with his Polish girlfriend named Kasia (Cara Seymour), who is leaving him. Wendy lives in the East Village of New York City and has a habit of telling lies and popping pills, and lives a boring life as a wanna-be writer working at temp jobs. She also has romantic problems with a married man named Larry (Peter Friedman) who lives in her building.
When the siblings get word that their father Lenny Savage (Philip Bosco) is seriously ill, they must figure a way to live together once again and care for him. This will awaken bad memories and unconventional habits they never overcame as children, which caused the family's friction in the beginning. Before they take on this endeavor, they must visit their father Lenny at an upscale senior community in Arizona where he lived with his longtime girlfriend who recently died. They must relocate their father from an exclusive senior center on the warm West coast to a nursing home on the frigidly cold East coast.
The story broadens out into another rich but rarely explored theme - the complex web woven by brother-sister relationships. This relationship at times is hysterical and yet incredibly moving. I found it fascinating to watch their completely different ways of dealing with the world and yet still maintain the ability to trust and rely on each other. Each sibling develops a different reaction to their father's dire situation, with Wendy obsessively hoping to make it all right and Jon trying to maintain a sense of cool, detached realism.