The Royal Tenenbaums

Review Date:
Director: Wes Anderson
Writer: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Producers: Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Barry Mendel
Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum
Gwyneth Paltrow as Margot Tenenbaum
Luke Wilson as Richie Tenenbaum
Royal Tenenbaum likes to smoke, gamble, cheat and do pretty much everything thing else in the book, other than pay attention to his kids and wife. As it turns out, his children are geniuses, but he could care less. Years pass, the parents separate and the kids grow up (physically not really emotionally), and now that he’s contracted a fatal condition, Royal wants to make things right again with everyone.
There’s only one word which accurately describes this movie to a tee and that word is “quirky”. The characters are quirky, the plot is quirky, the dialogue is quirky, the directing is quirky…pretty much everything about it is…yup, quirky! So do you like the quirky films? I do…at least, for the most part, and I certainly loved the quirky nature of director Anderson’s previous cinematic production entitled RUSHMORE, and felt quite taken by this film as well. First of all, I love the way that he sets things up: quick cuts to their youth, lots of colorful scenarios, funny one-liners, cool tunes…a succinct way of giving you the 4-1-1 on everyone involved. I was instantly taken. But then everyone grows up and the pace sets into a more reasonable pattern, with more back-and-forths between the characters, development of plot, as well as drama and humor. Well, once again…I really dug this part of the film. Sure, the basic idea behind the movie isn’t one of fantastic power or anything, but it’s not really trying to be that either. The film features a handful of characters with interesting backgrounds, plenty of antagonism and semi-attempts by everyone to improve themselves, and that’s basically it. No higher meaning or purpose, really.

Of course, all of that is bathed in high style, plenty of songs and a cast of characters that I personally loved spending every minute with, and I guess that’s all the purpose that I really needed. I had fun watching this movie. I didn’t crack up like a hyena but I did laugh during many scenes and appreciated the darker tones of its humor. I especially loved the lead character in Royal Tenenbaum and Gene Hackman. I tell you, this guy was awesome in his small role in HEARTBREAKERS earlier this year, and here he is playing a full-blown loveable a-hole to a tee. If you don’t “get into” his character, I highly doubt that you will like this film at all. In fact, the movie itself definitely isn’t for all tastes. Much like RUSHMORE (which I lent to my parents one night and they’ve barely spoken to me since-“Was that supposed to be a comedy, son?”), the comedy here has more to do with the situations, the deadpan looks, the sarcasm, the dry nature of the humor and Owen Wilson…just being…Owen Wilson! And before I forget, I have to mention the cast, all of whom did a great job with their characters, despite not really have too much time consecrated to any one of them. My favorites (other than the great Hackman!) included Owen Wilson (who’s just funny, even when he’s just sitting there-the Charlie Rose-esque interview session was hilarious!), Luke Wilson (who actually came off as the solid anchor in the film), Gwyneth Paltrow (looking better than ever, I must say) and Anjelica Huston (who was solid throughout). I will say that Stiller didn’t impress me as much as he usually does and Bill Murray was sadly underused, but on the whole, they all blended together really well, even good ol’ Pagoda (yup, same guy from RUSHMORE and BOTTLE ROCKET), who once knifed the patriarch of the Tenenbaum household in a New Delhi bazaar (but was nice enough to take him to the hospital afterwards).

Granted, I didn’t think the whole brother/sister love angle was as interesting as Royal’s attempt to win back his family (which was thankfully the greater emphasis of the film), but all in all, most of the plot points gelled nicely, and many scenes remain memorable to me even now (the “family day” that Royal spent with his grandkids and Luke Wilson’s “meltdown” tennis match were respective blasts!) Of course, a review of the film simply isn’t complete without mention of its wondrous soundtrack, which manages to blend the perfect tunes at just the right times (I don’t personally dig on most 60/70s music, but whenever I watch Anderson’s films…they work!) No dick and fart jokes here, folks. This is a clever movie filled with satirical characters living over-the-top lives and plenty of…yup, quirkiness all around. Not for all tastes, but definitely my kind of flick! “And this is my adopted daughter, Margot”

(c) 2021 Berge Garabedian