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The Royal Tenenbaums

A movie by Wes Anderson.

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A Wes Anderson film like no other; and I compared it to an overstuffed but tasty burrito!

  • Mar 5, 2011
**** out of ****

An auteur's work is never done. A filmmaker that bears such an honorable title must keep making films no matter how often they are criticized, and in many cases, this will be many, many times. One of the world's best auteur filmmakers is Wes Anderson; who I also believe to be one of the craftiest filmmakers working today. I have loved most of his films for quite some time; and from the moment I watched "Rushmore", I knew how much I loved the guy. So now I've watched "The Royal Tenenbaums"- a thing which I have done many times before- but only now do I have a respectable opinion to share regarding the film. And as always, "Tenenbaums" surprised me, made me laugh, (almost) made me cry, and best of all; made me think. It's the kind of intelligent, hilarious, and sweet dramedy that just doesn't come along every day; and it's the perfect tone of "bordering on eternal sadness" that helps this film score in just about every (and any) way possible. It's a great film; one that I find as memorable as it is funny, and as sad as it is touching. It's an emotionally engaging, multiple character-study sort of film; a proud multi-tasker that does so much without making a big fuss about it. Here, Wes Anderson has taken a spectacular cast and set them loose in a house; which in itself acts as the world that they inhabit. It seems like limited space, of course, but that only seems to add to the film's raw fascination. It's a film that works miraculously whilst being stuffed with various delicacies, and the fact that it's incredible is what makes it such a fascinating, impeccably delightful feast of a film. It's like a buffet but for actors; a convention but for directorial talent. And as with nigh all Wes Anderson films, "The Royal Tenenbaums" is undeniably quirky and charming to odd ends. It's unlike any comedy you've probably seen or ever have WANTED to see, and the fact that Anderson made is in spite of our careless nature towards the premise is admirable. It's the kind of film that simply should not work- especially not as well as it does. But the fact that it's a film I love should not count as a flaw. It should simply mean that I admire it, and it felt fresh enough to be one of 2001's best films. It's the kind of silly, goofy, but mature fun that I will always be in the mood for. It can cheer you up, get you down, or satisfy your emotions in ways that you never would have guessed it could. Honestly, how many films can do that?

Royal Tenenbaum was a shitty dad. He and his wife Ethylene Tenenbaum had three children whilst married; Chaz, Richie, and the adopted Margot. Each child was brilliant in their own way (Chaz a financial wizard at youth, Richie a talented young tennis prodigy, and Margot an accomplished, youthful playwright), although the influence of their father did not exactly help them age any faster. They suffered a rough childhood; which could often times take an upwards turn towards content happiness, and then dip right back down to complete, total depression. Each child has since grown up and gone their separate ways. We fast-forward Twenty-Two years later, and much has changed. Royal has been recently kicked out of his temporary apartment, while Ethylene still lives in the house. She has a new love interest named Henry Sherman. The children have also had their own little lives in the course of these particular years. Chaz has had two children of his own; but is not content since his wife was recently deceased. Richie has quit professional tennis and gone on a self-emotional journey via a Cruise Ship. And then there's Margot, who we learn has been married although is not satisfied. She spends her days soaking in the tub and watching a television that she has arrogantly mounted on the radiator. Everyone has their problems; even Richie's childhood friend Eli Cash. There are a lot of characters to follow here; but Anderson leaves it up to us to decide who we truly want to follow in the end. I like that; and I also like how "The Royal Tenenbaums" does not focus solely on the flow of its plot. That would typically suggest an under-plotted film; but "The Royal Tenenbaums" is about as good as dramas get. It can be funny one moment and quiet/sad the next. I admire the craft that went into the screen-play, and the dialogue that goes on between the characters is definitely interesting enough for one to stick with the film. The typical Wes Anderson stylistic elements are still here, so if you don't like them, you will not have so much luck finding solace in "Tenenbaums". But there is still an ingeniously entertaining character-study to be found here, and in the end, Royal is the central character. The thing feels so messy that in fact it could be called a beautiful mess; a mess being one of characters. There's so many of them that it would be perfectly normal to question who is who. I've seen the film many times; and I know who everyone is. It's good to know that watching the thing over-and-over again really paid off in the end. I guess some things do work out.

It's impossible not to admire Gene Hackman's nerve and work in this film. He plays a lovable but disappointing asshole of a father. He inhabits Royal Tenenbaum completely; and he might as well be the star of the show here. But the fun does not start and stop at Hackman's wonderful, off-kilter performance. There is plenty of other fun to be had. You've got Angelica Huston as Ethylene Tenenbaum; a tough but loving woman who sort of grows on you after a damn good while. Her new-found suitor is Henry Sherman, who is played by the more-than-capable Danny Glover. This is his best performance. The kids (Chaz, Richie, and Margot) are played by Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, and Gwyneth Paltrow, respectively. I enjoyed Luke Wilson's performance out of the three; mostly because I admired his character the most. Plus, this is some of his best work to date; non-pretentious and never as annoying as typical Luke Wilson stuff tends to get. Then there's Owen Wilson (who starred opposite of his brother Luke in Anderson's "Bottle Rocket") who puts on an eccentric performance as the drug-riddled Eli Cash. Margot's character is married to a guy played by Bill Murray; a neurologist character, no doubt. This is the first time where Murray just doesn't do much to steal the show; although it is good to see him in a just-plain-depressing sort of role. And how could I possibly end this section without mentioning the funny and delightful Kumar Pallana? I'd be paying disrespect towards a completely respectable human being if I didn't.

Wes Anderson is sort of a crafty, artsy trickster of all things quirky and undeniably clever. He has made a few movies (I only say a few because he's been around not too long, and he's made six films as of now), and without making a bad one. I love the majority of his films, and I'm willing to give some damn good reasoning to why I adore each one. I enjoy and greatly appreciate "Bottle Rocket" for its outlandish sense of humor, its honest performances, and the fact that it launched Wes Anderson's career. I adore and cherish "Rushmore" as one of my favorite films of all time because of its memorable sequences of stylized comedy and cinematic quality, as well as Jason Schwartzman's relatable, humanistic performance. And now we come to "The Royal Tenenbaums"; and I loved this film because it felt like an overstuffed burrito. I compare these two oddly similar things because an overstuffed burrito is indeed overstuffed, but still tasty as a whole. "Tenenbaums" is essentially jam-packed with character, well-known actors, and unnecessarily complex visual detail. Anderson put some seriously solid effort into this film; he did not want it to be another forgettable clunker. I suppose what makes "The Royal Tenenbaums" a winner is its style; which as always, I admire to some seriously odd extremes. The film is hilarious without making us laugh (at least for half of the time), and then there are also the typically touching moments in which we realize how crafty this quirky, oddball bastard really is. Anderson is the kind of filmmaker that can not be properly replicated; one-of-a-kind, so to speak. "The Royal Tenenbaums" has beautiful production design, and relies on the elements of music and cinematography to set its whimsically depressing yet emotionally resonant mood. This is a good thing, because the soundtrack is awesome and the visual look is flat-out gorgeous. But what more can you expect from a Wes Anderson-directed feature film? I mean, honestly; he seeks to indulge his fans. I am, therefore, a proud fan.

Whenever Royal grins, do we sense his demeaningly endearing nature creeping up on us and hugging us until we feel a certain "delight"? Maybe, because I often felt as if Royal was growing on me; that lovable asshole of a human being. He's a disgraceful and singularly unlikable guy; but sometimes, those people are the best characters. When the film ends, we realize that we love the character; and so do those who initially hated him. Like him or not, Royal was a character. And so is Wes Anderson; for making this film and many more fantastically funny, sly foxes. I admire the inspirational sense of skill that went into this film; and there's simply no beating what Anderson has done her both visually and emotionally. He has drawn inspiration from past cinematic efforts, but then again, who hasn't? We all need someone to look up to; although the biggest inspiration for all of Wes Anderson's films is ironically himself. He makes the movie. That's why he's a goddamn auteur. And he should be damn proud of it. I wish I was like Anderson; a comedic genius who cannot be beaten even by some of the proudest, oldest comedic talents alive. His dark, dead-pan humor is a force to be reckoned with; as is his taut direction and his perfect casting. With "The Royal Tenenbaums", he literally gets nothing wrong. I suppose many will not like the film, but I think it is one of 2001's best films. It's not one to be missed, and there is a lot to look at here. Anderson has once again transformed humor into all-out art; and turned tears into admittedly honest joy. As I said, he's quite the craftsman. He has a special place in my heart; and he always will. "The Royal Tenenbaums" is one of Anderson's best. By all means, see the damn thing before the memory of its existence is given an expiration date.

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More The Royal Tenenbaums reviews
review by . July 20, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The Royal Tenenbaums was not a movie I loved when I first saw it. I liked it okay. Sure, sort of quirky and funny (it was also my first Wes Anderson movie). And then I was in a situation where I watched it again, oh well! This was a pretty good movie. And again, someone in college had it on and this time it was FUNNY! So I bought it and watched it on a more regular basis than I would care to admit (more than once a week). Pretty soon I knew most of the lines and could hardly wait for my next favorite …
Quick Tip by . July 26, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
If only for Wes Anderson as a good writer this would be a great movie to see. If it were only for the art direction, this would be a great movie to see. But when you add these to the costume design and soundtrack, you get a world of dysfunction and intrigue that will make you want to see everything else that Wes Anderson has to offer.
Quick Tip by . July 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Wes Anderson turns film into art. He paints such vivid portraits and the Royal Tenenbaums is his greatest family portrait yet
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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