The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

“All memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums had been erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster.”

#3 of Wes Anderson Series

In Wes Anderson’s third film, he brings together an ensemble cast to portray the unique and vibrant Tenenbaum family. The younger Tenenbaums are brought together again after two decades when their father has announced that he has been diagnosed with cancer.The Royal Tenenbaums is a different kind of dramedy that focuses on family and it’s importance, without falling into the usual clichés of those types of films. Although quite exaggerated, the Tenenbaums become a family that anyone can identify with and have all sorts of quirks that make them all the more lovable.

Plot: The Tenenbaum children, all of them once considered child prodigies, find their family falling apart when mother and father, Etheline (Anjelica Huston) and Royal (Gene Hackman), announce that they are separating. With the departure of the family’s patriarch, the Tenenbaum family slowly starts to separate as well. It is only after 22 years when Royal informs the family that he has stomach cancer and only 6 weeks to live that all of the Tenenbaums find themselves under the same roof. Now Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson), and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) must deal with relationships they had left behind and the things that have changed since they were kids.

Although only three movies in, I can definitely say this was my favorite movie so far. Anderson’s character are so weird but they are so relatable at the same time. These characters are truly very strange but there is something about each of them that you can understand and empathize with. Whether it be Chas’ mistrust of his dad because of his abandonment by him or Margot’s secretiveness because she feels she can’t become close to anyone. And most anyone can identify with the dysfunctional family aspect in general. It’s a truly unique story and one that Anderson tells perfectly.

Most of what I like about Anderson’s way of film making is the vividness of it all. From the set designs to the characters, you get the sense that you are in some sort of fantasy instead of real life without it being overwhelming or annoying.  In an interview with Gene Hackman in the special features of the Criterion edition of the DVD, he said something along the lines of “Although my character wears colorful shirts and colorful ties, and clothes that fit me in a strange way, if I let that affect my performance then I would be doing a caricature of what [Anderson] really thinks of him. I just allow it to be a look for the character.” I thought that that statement rings true for the whole movie, really. There is definitely that unique look to the film that makes it special, but in no way does it demean the true meaning of the film or make it less relatable to the audience.

The cast all deliver amazing performances. This was probably one of my favorite roles of Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot was probably the character that stuck out most to me. I feel like Paltrow doesn’t have many roles where she can show off her ability to give depth to a character but she certainly gave a well-rounded performance as Margot. Stiller and both the Wilsons also stood out. Stiller’s character stays the same for the whole time really, until the very end, but his coldness towards Royal mixed with grief for the loss of his wife proves to be an interesting mix. Luke Wilson probably stood out more than his brother because he has the bigger role, of course, but his character was also very interesting. He has a different sort of problems than his siblings, as he feels both alienated from them because he was Royal’s obvious favorite and confused because he has realized he is in love with his adopted sister, Margot, and doesn’t know whether or not to pursue it. Even the supporting actors (Danny Glover, Bill Murray, Kumar Pallana, Owen Wilson) were all top notch and added something great to the film.

The script is another wonderful production of Anderson and Owen Wilson. It’s humor, again, isn’t slapstick or overt at all. I found this film very humorous, but just like other Anderson films, it comes from the quirkiness of the characters and their dialogue. One of my favorite lines was when Etheline finds out Margot is a smoker and asks how long she has been one. Margot replies “22 years” and Etheline responds,  “I think you should quit.” It’s this type of humor in the characters that make them so memorable and really make the movie a lot more than just your average “family is important” themed film.

Conclusion: The Royal Tenenbaums has everything you would ever want from Wes Anderson. Silly but lovable characters, tongue in cheek humor, wonderful writing, and lively and unique sets that draw you into the charismatic world that the Tenenbaums exist in. It, like any other Anderson film, probably isn’t a movie for anyone, but I found it to be a memorable piece of work that is full of emotion and heart. The acting is truly superb as the cast is mostly all made up of well established actors.  I would recommend the movie to any film lover, as it is one of those films you can watch again and again and appreciate something new every time.

UP NEXT—–>Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou

One thought on “The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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