The Royal Tenenbaums

Film: The Royal Tenenbaums
Release Date: 4th December 2001
Director: Wes Anderson
Rating: 15
Touchstone Pictures

Meet the Tenenbaums I keep thinking this film is called before I correct my ways. I don’t know why this is but I just think of the film and attach that title. But you do meet them, you seem the rich family as kids before seeing them grow up and apart from each other. Then you see them all come back to the starting point which is their old home so you do meet them quite in-depth. Meet the Tenenbaums.

Presented in chapters, The Royal Tenenbaums tells the story of a family who have grown distant over the years. Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) is about to be officially divorced and to avoid this he tells the family he doesn’t have long left to live. This brings the family back together under one roof and how they handle the situation. The film has a multitude of characters thanks to Royal Tenenbaum having two kids and an adopted one plus you have their children, boyfriends and friends on top. The story contains numerous sub plots making up the bigger picture as it goes through each member of the family’s life rather than centering everything on the death-bed story. Everything ties up neatly at the end however so the story doesn’t feel like a bunch of unnecessary tangents.

What makes this film something special is what makes every Wes Anderson film something special; it is all in the characters and melancholy happiness his films provide. Nothing is truly happy in the film and the humour is gathered from the dry wit which puts a veil on the reality of the characters situations and feelings, only to throw the veil off when it needs to for some of the serious situations. I think The Royal Tenenbaums ranks as my favourite Wes Anderson film due to the characters and homely feeling it gives off. Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller) has his kids dress in track suits much like he does and has an obsession with safety, Margaret Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow)  is adopted and smokes in secret amongst other secret things and Richie Tenebaum (Luke Wilson who has his brother Owen Wilson as his main rival in the film once more)  is a professional tennis player in love with his adopted sister.  Add the smaller side characters who piece the whole plot together and everything feels nearly woven and endearing.

It knows how to pull you away from the strange comforts of the film too as the Richie x Margaret plotline ends up in one of the most depressing yet oddly beautiful scenes I’ve witnessed in a film. The music, the speech and the resulting mess is the climatic scene in the film and it brings chills and tears to the table. It almost seems well deserved that most of the characters meet redemption and some sort of happiness by the end, usually it would be a forced cheerful ending but here it works with the character depth and change being a great conclusion.

The Royal Tenenbaums holds a special place in my heart. It impacted me in a way that I just couldn’t find the words for it for so long. I’d sit there and just wonder how and I know my current attempt is probably of little worth to how great this film is. It felt like the start of something important in my life and I try to write these words now I look back at the time I watched it. Everything has an almost surreal quality to it yet it presents an easier to believe reality than most. Amusing, charming, sad and happy, everything rolled into one world.


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