The Royal Tenenbaums

An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when one of their member announces he has a terminal illness.

Since starting the retrospective, I’ve enjoyed Wes Anderson’s films slightly more as I’ve gone along (let’s leave Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel out of things for now). I thought ‘Bottle Rocket’ was fairly poor, ‘Rushmore’ merely OK, but this was a solid improvement on both of these films. The Royal Tenenbaums is unashamedly the work of Wes Anderson, but it manages to create a compelling family dynamic that makes this a much better overall experience.

The film begins by introducing us to the Tenenbaums, led by patriarch Royal (an excellent Gene Hackman), who currently lives out of a hotel, his wife (Anjelica Huston), and their 3 children (Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow), who were all supremely talented as youths, and have all more or less let their talent go to waste. It’s not the first time we’ve seen a dysfunctional family on screen, and nor is it the best (Arrested Development’s Bluth family takes that crown for my money), but the characters are all interesting in their own weird ways and I actually found myself caring about what happened, which isn’t something I’ve always experienced with Wes Anderson.

The plot is fairly idiosyncratic, with Royal trying to move back into the family home after being kicked out of his hotel, making up a sick lie to get back into their good graces. The film is interested in the reactions of the other characters to this new development, and it creates some great moments when the lie is revealed. Gene Hackman is very good in the main role, and for a change, the supporting characters add depth to the story without overwhelming it. The film also has a terrific soundtrack, and the style is quirky but not ridiculously so, which was good to see.

Next up, ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’, which interestingly seems to be the worst reviewed of Anderson’s movies, at least going by Rotten Tomatoes.

Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Wes Anderson

Starring: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Seymour Cassell, Danny Glover, Kumar Pallana, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson

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