Movie Review – The Royal Tenenbaums

February 15, 2002

Movie Review – The Royal TenenbaumsClassified – MA

Running Time – 108 Minutes


Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Gover, Bill Murray

Director – Wes Anderson

Producers – Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel, Scott Rudin

Screenplay – Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson

Cinematography – Robert D. Yeoman

Music – Mark Mothersbaugh

Comedy for thinkers

The Royal Tenenbaums…

“family is not a word, it’s a sentence.”

If you’ve ever had any niggling thoughts that your family could be dysfunctional, for your therapy, I recommend Wes Anderson’s new flick, the Royal Tenenbaums. Quite frankly, next to this “movie family,” your family is boring.

Royal Tennenbaum (Genne Hackman) and his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston ) had three children – Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson) and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) – and then they separated. The children are extraordinarily gifted, and raised by their mother, Etheline, who ensures that each child is pushed to the peak of success. Chas a home-owner from his early teens, possessed an almost supernatural understanding of international finance. Margot, a playwright, received a Braverman Grant for fifty thousand dollars in the ninth grade. Richie was a junior tennis player and won the US Nationals three years consecutively.

The film starts off with a family of geniuses, seemingly with everything going for it, ending up in disaster. The children are deeply troubled, burnt – out and unable to cope with the problems in life that most people are able to handle. Chas is a neurotic widower and father of two young boys, Margot married an older man (Bill Murry) and can’t face him, and Richie suffered a psychological blow-out on the tennis court as a result of his feelings of love for his adopted sister. All this was generally considered to be their father’s fault. The story is about how lives change and relationships unfold as theTenenbaums are forced into a sudden, unexpected reunion.

The cast is bloated with extraordinary talent and charisma. Their personalities so strong from the outset, it’s almost as if the characters delivered the plot before the film had a chance to get going. The film carries a specific tone, and a dark, skewed humor that will have some people splitting their sides. You’ll find yourself laughing at people’s insecurities and vulnerabilities. Wes Anderson’s style is so dry, he manages to make people laugh in situations where we really ought to be crying.

Gene Hackman play’s the very complicated “Royal,” who is selfish and wild and yet genuinely trying to make amends with his family so he can feel some love. His bumbling and deceitful attempts to win the trust and affection of his family are hilarious. A favourite quote is one he delivers to his two young grandson’s when visiting the family cemetery – “Sorry to hear about your mother, she was a very attractive woman.”

Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance is incredible, she takes on her role like a duck to water. Margot’s character is very precious and the fact that Gwyneth comes from a sophisticated New York background really shows through in her manner. Margot is twelve going on eighteen. Ben Stiller, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson also manage to deliver brilliant performances.

The visual style, the film titles and the soundtrack are just as brilliant as the story. If you’re committed to listening to cool tunes and your taste runs is the opposite direction, as fast as it can from mainstream, you’ll love this soundtrack. You’ll hear sounds from Elliot Smith, Nico, Mark Mothersbaugh, The Ramones, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles (although these tracks are omitted from the published CD) Nick Drake, Emitt Rhodes and the Clash and more.

If you’re in need of a thinking man’s comedy, hang around for this one. This flick is just the one for you.

Caroline Kinny-Lewis


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