Royal Tenenbaums

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A Royally Good Time

Apr 14, 2003
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Rated a Very Helpful Review
  • User Rating: Excellent

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Pros:A relief to know that there are still movies that provoke the mind.

Cons:A little confusing for some, but definitely not all

The Bottom Line: If you want to expand your view on movies and the types of acting and directing, go see this movie.


Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.

The Royal Tenenbaums, Directed by Wes Anderson and written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson is a black comedy that dares to explore the failures of life and the real emotions not usually glorified on film. A movie where all aspects, acting, directing, and writing come together to make a fabulous time.

The movie kicks off with a book entitled The Royal Tenenbaums being check out of a library. Soon after, a narration (by Alec Baldwin) begins which starts the brief, yet impactful, history of the Tenenbaum family. At “Chapter Two” of this book, we are introduced to a cast of characters, thirty-three later from when we first met them. The plot of the story unravels when we meet the patriarchal father of the Tenenbaums, Royal (Gene Hackman). Currently, Royal is in a state of financial emergency, he has no more money. Not knowing how to deal with his situation, Royal turns to his disintegrated family for help. Understanding that his family holds grudges towards him for the distance he created, Royal contrives a plan of action. He tricks his family into believing he has a deadly illness and will not be alive much longer. Generously, Royal’s wife, Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston), agrees to house Royal. When he mischievously returns to the Tenenbaum house, Royal realizes that he may encounter some problems.

Royal's first dilemmas arrive when being re-introduced to his family. Instead of a loving homecoming, Royal’s presence is negatively received. His youngest son, Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson), an ex-pro tennis champion who exiled himself from his family and settled onto a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, comes first to his father’s aid. Richie understands Royal’s need to connect with his family again and acts as the voice of reason between his siblings and his father.

Royal’s other son, Chas Tenenbaum (Ben Stiller), has a difficult time embracing his father’s presence. When Chas was younger, he was very ambitious. He bred Dalmatian mice, sealed his father’s real-estate deals, and involved himself in international financial issues. Yet, he can not forgive his father for their rough past. (Specifically, Royal stole bonds from Chas’s savings account when he was fourteen).

Finally, there is Royal’s adopted daughter, Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow). An ex-playwrite, she received a Braverman Grant of 50,000 dollars in the ninth grade. When her father introduced Margot to friends, it was with the title of “our adopted daughter Margot.” It is this dysfunctional father daughter relationship that keeps the two from becoming closer.

The rest of the movie revolves around the details of these characters’ interactions. There is no specific period of time or setting. Instead the “characters [are] stuck in a great period of success,” claims director Anderson. Their successful stages as children are conveyed through the similar clothing worn both at the beginning of the book when they are younger and 33 years later. Even though the characters have matured, their personalities remain relatively the same.

When all three children where younger, they were considered geniuses in their own fields (Etheline Tenenbaum wrote a book on the subject called A Family of Genius’s.) Yet, soon after their teens, each Tenenbaum child disintegrates into a boring person with no extraordinary features. Richie misplaced his tennis playing skills, Margot stopped writing plays, and Chas loses his sensible control when his wife dies in a plane accident. All the Tenenbaum children seem to be in a state of gloominess; yet they are unconsciously becoming happier people by their father.

As for the typical villain and hero, The Royal Tenenbaums combined two into one. The villain is Royal, who guilt-free(at first) deceives his family. Yet, he is inevitably the hero who brings the family together again in a blissful reunion. To help portray Royal's complex character visually, as well as each and every other character there is Wes Anderson. It is he who fills in the final touches, with a unique camera shot, to make it complete.

Anderson’s use of a wide angel gives the movie an overwhelming scope similar to the existence each character has come to face. He also uses detailed music and scenery to help bring the family together into a real-life situation. Each scene of this film includes the perfect shot where the subject is portrayed in their own visual emotional surroundings. For example, Richie Tenenbaum decides to camp out in a tent in the family living room. The tent is bright yellow, complete with old records, colorful lights, and the sleeping bag he had when he ran away from home when he was younger. What he treasures emotionally can be seen by his surrounding. Specifically, the sleeping bag which he shared with his beloved sister, Margot. The sleeping bag shows an admiration that Richie shares for his sister which he cares not to mention to her, but is able to express it by his surroundings.

The detailed musical choices are also extremely specific. The detail Wes Anderson and Mark Mothersbaugh (composer) put into the soundtrack gives a sense of excitement. I can not even began to imagine the scene when Margot Tenenbaum goes to meet Richie without Nico quietly playing in the background. The music adds such a sense of togetherness. For example, when a song is playing at a fast speed, with light happy pitches, it compliments the scene which also has a fast happy mood to it.

Amazing plot, amazing director, amazing music: The The Royal Tenenbaums is the movie of the century, but in all reality is not a movie for everyone. The emotional aspect, as mentioned before, is a very real-life situation. The movie deals with death, suicide, and stages of love that are not usually glorified in movies. Such subjects may be uncomfortable to certain audience members, yet the acting is so tastefully done it is not seen as overly dramatic. Every actor in this film proves their acting ability to be at a high caliber. Gene Hackman, Gwenth Paltrow, and Angelica Huston are all highly talented actors when it comes to drama. But in this movie, they all bring a comedic aspect to their characters, as well. One of the best performances in this movie springs from Ben Stiller. Audiences have grown used to seeing Stiller in more comedic roles, where he plays the ULTRA funny man. As Chas Tenenbaum he had to show a more serious side of himself, something I did not know he could accomplish so astonishingly. Thus, the acting enhances the script to make a fabulous film.

I categorize this film as a cult favorite. It is truly a film that should be studied to understand its complexity and beauty. The Royal Tenenbaums is like an sophisticated piece of literature. It needs to be seen by those who truly care for the material. It is the detailed characters, fantastic directing, that meet the challenges of a complex script that make The Royal Tenenbaums a thoroughly enjoyable film.


Recommend this product? Yes


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: None of the Above
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older


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