Starring: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Danny Glover, Seymour Cassel, Kumar Pallana, Alec Baldwin
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Synopsis: An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when one of their member announces he has a terminal illness.
This is the first Wes Anderson movie I saw, back in about 2002 or 2003 I think. I fell in love with his signature style straight away and wasted no time in tracking down the rest of his movies, as well as eagerly awaiting each new release. But for me, The Royal Tenenbaums will always be my favourite. I know critical consensus would probably say Rushmore, but not for me.
I loved the star-studded cast, which was helped by the fact that Ben Stiller and Owen and Luke Wilson featured in the movie. I was quite into the likes of Zoolander at the time, so I assumed this to be a comedy in that vein. How wrong I was!
The premise, if you haven’t seen it, is that the Royal Tenenbaum (Hackman) is broke and homeless after getting kicked out of the hotel he’s been staying at. He decides he will tell his estranged family that he has terminal cancer so that they will allow him to live with them and he can try and win back the affections of, not just his kids, but his wife Etheline (Huston), who is dating prominant accountant Henry Sherman (Glover). His kids, now in their thirties, were all child prodigies before they crashed and burned due to numerous cases of bad fortune and circumstance.
The cast is amazing. From the unlikeable but charming Royal, to the mixed up Richie (Luke Wilson) to the deadpan Margot (Paltrow) to the unhinged Eli (Owen Wilson) and the sulky Chas (Stiller). They all add something to the pot. And then you have supporting players as strong as Danny Glover and Bill Murray adding other ingredients. Plus the narration by Alec Baldwin is awesome! Oh, and the soundtrack is another example of Anderson, along with Tarantino, being at the top of the tree when it comes to picking a good tune.
As with any Wes Anderson movie, you have to buy in to the aesthetics and the whimsy, making this yet another movie that won’t be to everyone’s taste. The humour is quite dry but with some laugh out loud moments, especially upon repeat viewings when you can spot new things. And for people who say Anderson’s movies have no soul or emotion, rubbish! There is a line near the end that Ben Stiller utters to Gene Hackman that has me welling up every time!
I count The Royal Tenenbaums one of my favourite movies of all time so can easily recommend this to anyone.
Check out Matt Zoller Seitz’s video documentary about The Royal Tenenbaums below…