The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) – Wes Anderson


The next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Pulp Fiction is a foray into the wonderfully quirky world of Wes Anderson with The Royal Tenenbaums. Now, with Anderson’s films, I’ve noticed you either love them or hate them. This one, alongside Rushmore, are probably my favorites of his, but I hadn’t seen this one in a number of years so was curious to see what I though when I re-watched it.

It still entertains!

A once successful family, with three child genius, the Tenenbaums have sort of fallen apart and drifted away from one another. The family begins to slowly reunite when Royal (Gene Hackman) announces he’s dying.

He’s not.

As the family comes together, old wounds, and new characters are introduced. There’s Eli Cash (Owen Wilson), the next door neighbor, who always wanted to be a Tenenbaum. There’s adopted daughter Margo Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow), who is hiding her smoking, there is her foster-brother Richie Tenenbaum, a former tennis prodigy, who had a meltdown, and may be in love with Margo. Then there’s Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) haunted by the death of his wife, who along with his two sons, live in a hectic business-filled world where safety has begun to interfere with living.

Watching over them all is Etheline (Anjelica Huston), who is beginning a love affair for the first time in years, with her friend Henry Sherman (Danny Glover).


Throw into this mix Bill Murray, narration by Alec Baldwin, and Anderson’s knack for framing his shots, and telling quirky stories, and you have a delightful ride that is bound to appeal.

It’s hard not to like Royal, even though he is initially exploiting the emotions of his family, there’s just something really charming about Hackman’s portrayal. Rivaling his performance is Stiller as Chas. He plays the pain, loss and worry, not funneling itself towards a fixation of keeping his two sons safe at all times, incredibly well.

I always enjoy how Anderson tells his stories, title cards, odd little asides, the sketches, the odd, flawed, and oh so human characters that populate his creations. I love the way his films are put together, and the pacing of this film just works splendidly, it never falters, and the film keeps moving, weaving through family politics, love, death, and makes it an engaging, and occasionally endearing story as well.

Anytime I watch an Anderson film, it just fires me up to watch the rest of his works again, so I may find myself going through those again shortly. And while some of them aren’t as strong as Tenenbaums, I do find them all really entertaining.

Do you have a favorite Anderson film?





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