Screen Reviews

The Royal Tenenbaums

Directed by Wes Anderson

Starring Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Anjelica Huston


The Royal Tenenbaums, with its huge cast of well-known stars, is pretty much like director Wes Anderson’s film previous film, Rushmore: unfeigningly unique and incredibly bizarre. This is, indeed, the type of movie that will either completely delight or severely irritate moviegoers. Where Rushmore is easily one of the five best films of the 1990s, The Royal Tenenbaums requires more of the viewer than did Rushmore, so it is a bit harder to fall completely in love with Tenenbaums.

The Tenenbaums are a well-to-do family who have three children (one being adopted) who are all considered child geniuses. Royal (Gene Hackman), the father of the family, is a crude and brash man who favors son Ritchie (Luke Wilson) over the other children, and eventually is kicked out of the house by his wife Etheline (Anjelica Houston) when the children are still quite young.

Fast forward 22 years, and Royal has hit rock bottom, depleting all of his funds from his career as a lawyer. He conjures up a plan to move back into the Tenenbaum house with Etheline (the two never officially divorced). The three children all simultaneously decide to move back home to the Tenenbaum house for various reasons, and so begins the story.

The film is essentially the tale of the redemption of Royal Tenenbaum, a man who acts like a total bastard, but who also has a very big heart and love for his family.

Gene Hackman is simply incredible in this film. It is almost inconceivable that a 71-year-old man can move around like Hackman does in this film! He has so much spirit and character as Royal Tenenbaum that he deserves some real recognition for this role. Truly amazing!

Luke Wilson is also quite good here, playing an emotionally unstable former tennis pro who is desperately in love with his sister, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow –and the character is adopted). His character is quite flat until he shaves off his beard and hair, at which time the emotion pours out of him.

The comedy here is very highbrow, similar to the comedy in Rushmore. Ben Stiller’s character is a widower with two young boys who sport afros and wear Adidas jumpsuits, circa the early 1980s. Quite enjoyable!

The set of this film is visually spectactular! The walls of the Tenenbaum home are bright red! The characters clothes are completely ridiculous: Hackman sports a tweed suit throughout, Paltrow wears heavy black mascara (even as a 12-year-old!), Danny Glover dresses like a 1960s college professor, and Owen Wilson wears a tasseled leather cowboy jacket and cowboy hat throughout the movie (he’s an author).

This film is the best I’ve seen since The Sixth Sense. It really is worth seeing. It will make you laugh, cry, squirm, and cringe. This movie should get some honors this year, hopefully to Hackman, if there’s any justice in this world. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie to fans of Rushmore. Non-fans may have a hard time getting into it, but it’s so unique that I think everyone should give it a try.

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