The Royal Tenenbaums
I thought my family was strange, but we have nothing on the Tenenbaums. They excel in the art of dysfunction. Director/co-writer Wes Anderson is the man behind Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums also has the quirky attributes that were in that film.
Gene Hackman plays Royal Tenenbaum, a patriarchal father who produces three genius children (two actually and adopts the third which he always introduces as "and this is my adopted daughter, Margot"). Royal doesn't bother to stay around to raise his children and leaves. Meanwhile his wife Etheline (played by Anjelica Huston) writes a book about the genius children (it seems that every character has written a book as they flash up on screen as each person is introduced) and then becomes an archaeologist who digs for human remains in urban sites.
Some twenty years later Royal returns to the family roost. Actually he has to as he has run out of money and has been thrown out of the hotel he's been living in for years. He fakes a terminal illness in the hope that Etheline will take him back, as they never divorced officially. Etheline however has moved on years ago and is now dating her accountant Henry Sherman (Danny Glover in an electric blue suit and humourless demeanour).
The children converge at the family home believing that Royal has cancer. Chas (Ben Stiller) started his own business in his early teens selling Dalmatian rats overseas and then reinvesting in real estate. He is highly overprotective of his two boys since the accidental death of his wife. Richie (Luke Wilson) was a brilliant tennis star who suffers a melt down when he realises that he is in love with someone (not to spoil the film!!). Margot was a brilliant writer at a very early age but now has writers block, and hides her smoking habit from everyone. She has also just married an older man, a psychologist (bill Murray) but she is still full of neurosis. The other 'child' returning to the nest is Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) who although not a Tenenbaum, he is a childhood friend who grew up living opposite them and currently spends most of his time as a semi-prominent writer, snorting coke and sleeping with Margot.
Royal spends his time pretending to have cancer, meddling in his kids lives, trying to get his wife back and generally (and desperately) believes that he can right the wrongs he has done to everyone overnight. Although he has returned for the treatment of his 'illness' no one in his family rush back into his arms and he is taken care at from a distance.
Everyone in the film has neurosis that they need to work out and they can only achieve it at the family home. Richie needs to open up to his true love. Chas has to break down the barriers between himself and Royal. Margot needs to feel like she belongs and Eli has to realise that no he cannot be a Tenenbaum no matter how much he envies them.
The performances really drive this film and while the laughs do take time in coming, the little details are brilliant such as the 'game room' (basically a huge cupboard filled with boards games stacked to the ceiling where people go to talk privately with one another. Hackman is brilliant as Royal, flying from one emotion to the next and never really understanding anyone, believing that committing misdemeanours with his grandchildren makes him a good grandfather and that if he can buy acceptance or love, that's as good as earning it. Basically his heart is in the right place even if his logic and understanding is not. Ben Stiller plays a serious role for a change is is also good, while Owen Wilson who normally plays daft one brain cell characters is still in this forum. He deserves much more credit as he also co-wrote The Royal Tenenbaums. Gwyyneth Paltrow is in fine form as the dysfunctional Margot but Bill Murray's role is a little thin.
Although funny and extremely quirky, The Royal Tenenbaums is not everyone's cup of tea, but the key to the film is hidden within the situations, the sarcasm and the dry nature of the humour altogether. Coupled with an extremely strong cast this film does hit the spot and makes me think maybe my family isn't so bad. Highly recommended and one of the most original films to show that you cannot chose your family.
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