March 9th: The Royal Tenenbaums


Release Date: 2001
Director: Wes Anderson
Why I picked this: Need to see Wes Anderson stuff

If you can tolerate Wes Anderson movies, you should be fine watching this. It contains all of his standard tropes, such as top down shots, far away and symmetrical shots, colorful sets, a quirky tone, intelligent children, characters with uniforms, slow motion sequences, a distinct typography used, mature content, and reoccurring actors such as Bill Murray and the Wilson brothers. This film in particular used very warm colors, and I found it interesting how mature story matter and content was told in such a whimsical style. Information is relayed to the audience usually during quick montages, usually accompanied by music and a narration from Alec Baldwin; it is a very effective form of “show, don’t tell.” The camera is still or steady for most of the film, except in scenes of chaos where the camera moves violently. The story centers on the Tenenbaum family, its patriarch being Royal Tenenbaum, played by Gene Hackman. Royal has been estranged from his family for quite some time, mainly for being unfaithful to his wife Ethel, played by Anjelica Huston. As a result, their three children were mostly raised by Ethel alone; the film’s time frame is when the children are now adults, them being Chas, a genius in finance played by Ben Stiller, Margot, who is a playwright and an adopted daughter, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, and Richie, a tennis prodigy played by Luke Wilson. These three actors gave the best performances as the troubled Tenenbaum siblings. Richie is living in slight paranoia after the death of his wife in a plane crash, and as a result, as sheltered his two young children. Margot finds herself detached from everyone, even her husband Raleigh St. Clair, a neurologist played by Bill Murray. Richie’s tennis career faltered after breaking down during a pivotal match. Margot and Richie have much more to their personal issues that should be seen for themselves. While these three characters can come across as downright depressing at points, the three actors do an admirable job playing these pained characters, especially the usually comedic Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson. The cast is rounded out with Owen Wilson as Eli Cash, friend to the family since childhood and now semi-successful author of Western books, and  Danny Glover as Henry Sherman, Ethel’s accountant and a suitor of hers. While these characters, along with Murray’s character Raleigh, have backstories and a subplot, they only serve a very basic role in the grand scheme of the plot; subplots such as Eli’s drug problem seem underdeveloped and distracting. All of the Tenenbaums end up back in the house for unique reasons, with the center of the going ons being the supposed terminal cancer of Royal. He sets out to make amends with his family, but with an ounce of deception, making it difficult to sympathize with him when the movie wants you to. Each Tenenbaum child has a unique dynamic with Royal, with Margot feeling neglected when she was a child, Richie being more open to a positive relationship, and Chas being outright hostile towards him. I enjoyed watching these dynamics changed throughout the course of the film, but I longed for more time with Margot, probably the most interesting child in the family, with her father. While some of the Wes Anderson tropes felt “samey” to me, I still found this to be one of the most interesting fictional families to follow.

Whimsical and quirky, this is familiar for anyone who’s seen a Wes Anderson movie, but it features fascinating characters and a great ensemble cast.


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