The Royal Tenenbaums

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By: The Dweeb

 

March 2002

DVD Features

Video: 2.35:1 Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0

Portraits by Albert Maysles, featuring Wes Anderson
Exclusive Video Interviews and Behind the Scenes Footage
Outtakes
The Peter Bradley Show
The Art of the Movie: Young Richie’s murals and paintings
still photographs by set photographer James Hamilton
book and magazine covers
Studio 360 radio segment on painter Miguel Calderon
Storyboards
Theatrical Trailers
Collectible Insert Including Eric Anderson’s drawings

Theatrical release: 2001
DVD released on 7/9/2002 by Criterion
Running time of 110 minutes

Starring: Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson

Director: Wes Anderson

Plot: Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) and his wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston) had three children–Chas, Richie and Margot, and then they separated. Chas (Ben Stiller) started buying real estate in his early teens and seemed to have an almost preternatural understanding of international finance. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a playwright and received a Braverman Grant of fifty thousand dollars in the ninth grade. Richie (Luke Wilson) was a junior champion tennis player and won the U.S. Nationals three years in a row. Virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums was subsequently erased by two decades of betrayal, failure and disaster.

 

 

This is one of those films where the viewer will either hate it or love it. Wes Anderson has created his own unique style of film that would be hard to duplicate by anyone. Following on the heels of the acclaimed film Rushmore, this next Wes Anderson picture is good studying material for any would be future film director or writer to take notes on. The acting, editing, cinematography, set design and the rest of the elements all come together beautifully to make this simple yet amazing film.

This is film as art, no question. The screen is filled with vibrant colors, the actors are brightly dressed, even the walls are full of paintings and murals. The characters are surrounded by it, even though they themselves are muted. This family of child prodigies was supernova back in the day, but now they have collapsed into the blackhole depths of mediocrity and blandness.

This is the heart of The Royal Tenenbaums, its a great character study. This movie is about acting in its pure form. Everyone is excellent in this film, in particular Gene Hackman as the family patriarch, Royal. Wes wrote the screenplay with him in mind for the role, and he was perfect. He plays the lousy father who walked out on his kids, and then 20 years later decides to con his way back into the family. This is his journey of redemption, trying to repair years of damage he caused his family, and its not an easy task. Everyone hates him, so he has to lie about having stomach cancer so they feel pity for him and let him back in the house. The problem is he is a terrible liar and a bumbler, and soon he gets entangled in his elaborate web of deception, its fun to watch him screw up. The scene where he first confronts his ex-wife Etheline (Anjelica Houston) is probably the best example, with some great interaction between the two to boot.

The rest of the family has their own issues with themselves and with each other. Of the three, Margot (Gweneth Paltrow) is probably the worst of them. Its ironic too, because she’s not even related, she’s adopted, and Royal made sure everyone knew that while she was growing up. She was once a brilliant playwright as a child, (Plays seem to be a common theme with Wes Anderson’s films) her life now consists of sitting in the bathtub all day hiding her pack a day habit. On top of that, one of her fingers is missing. Oh, and she’s married to old fart Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray), who is more obsessed with his work than his wife. Her past is filled with efforts to run away and find another father figure, but somehow the wires get crossed and she ends up making out with all the men (or in some cases women) she meets. At this point in the film she just gives up and slides down further into her tub of numbness, staring forward with her raccoon eyes. The definitive middle child syndrome perhaps.

Chas (Ben Stiller) and Richie (Luke Wilson) did not make as much an impact on me as Gweneth’s character did. Ben basically played a typical Ben Stiller character from a lot of his other movies. Yes he was funny at points, but I’ve seen him do this before. He’s resentful and angry, in this case against his father. He even goes as far a suing him when he was younger.

Luke Wilson’s Richie character, I don’t know what was going on there. A former tennis pro, he still runs around in a sweatband and tennis shirt, and he’s obsessed with his sister? Ewww, as Margot says “I think we should secretly be in love with each other and leave it at that.” Such is the twisted humor of this film.

Other standout performances in here come from Danny Glover and Bill Murray. Danny plays the lovable accountant Henry Sherman, very awkward and shy. I wish he had more screen time because he was hilarious. Bill Murray plays Raleigh St Clair as only he could play him, I think my opinion on his acting abilities has changed with this role and in Rushmore. He’s really good, he could do really serious films if he wanted to I think.

This is a great DVD from Criterion. The sound and picture transfer to disc is excellent. There are a tons of features and extras on here. I especially like the making of documentary, its not the typical Hollywood fluff press package. It just shows it like it is, a camera following the cast and crew around. You see how much work goes into a film, even a smaller one like this one. There are also some great cast interviews and there’s even a section just featuring all the artwork in the film. This is a very well done package.

Overall, I enjoyed this DVD a lot, the subtle twisted humor of the characters is what kept me intrigued. But, like I said, you may hate or you love it, there’s no in between.

Reviewer’s Opinion: BUY IT!!

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