There’s a scene in The Royal Tenenbaums where an author has a breakdown on a talk show similar to the Charlie Rose show. Not only did Wes Anderson play the scene out as satire, but as one of his inspirations for this movie. He came up with that scene after he was interviewed by Charlie Rose while talking about Rushmore. But that’s only one of the artistic achievements in his 2001 film.
The movie involves the Tenenbaums, a dysfunctional family living in a 1970’s-style New York City. Royal (Gene Hackman) and Etheline (Angelica Huston) have three children with very unique personalities. When the children become adults, they realized how much change they had gone through over the years.
Chas (Ben Stiller) became a genius in international finance as a child, and sued his father for stealing money. Following his wife’s death, he becomes really overprotective of his two sons, Ari and Uzi. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), the adopted daughter of the Tenenbaum family, became a playwright, ran away from home and came back with a missing finger. Out of all the three children, she is the most clandestine; becoming a smoker at the age of 12 and having plenty of love affairs including Western author Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). Richie (Luke Wilson) became a tennis prodigy and secretly in love with Margot. After having a nervous breakdown at a tennis match, he decided to retire from tennis.
When Royal announces he has stomach cancer, all the Tenenbaum children come back to reunite with their father.
What a delightfully quirky and artsy movie this is. One of the reasons why The Royal Tenenbaums works is how it’s structured. The movie plays out like a novel. In the beginning, we see someone buying the book in the library and giving stills of the beginning page of the first chapter. The narrator (voiced by Alec Baldwin) begins to narrate the story. It’s just downright genius.
The cast does such an terrific job portraying their characters with a bit of vibrancy and irony on the side. Wes Anderson can do no wrong.