Saturday, 21 May 2011

Director Of The Month Film Review: Wes Anderson - The Royal Tenenbaums

Rating: 7.5/10 - Very Good

While this is probably the most coveted Wes Anderson film, it is not my favourite. It has interesting characters but it loses momentum. The audience has to "buy" the crazy people in it since it relies so heavily on characterisation and dialogue.

Director: Wes Anderson. Screenplay: Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. Producers: Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel and Scott Rudin. Executive Producers: Rudd Simmons and Owen Wilson. Cinematographer: Robert Yeoman. Editor: Dylan Tichenor. Score: Mark Mothersbaugh. Distributor: Touchstone Pictures. Starring: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Andrew Wilson, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, Bill Murray and Alec Baldwin. Running Time: 110 Minutes.

The movie tells the story of the Tenenbaum family. The head of the family, Royal Tenenbaum announces he is dying which prompts the dysfunctional family to get together to see him off. The array of characters is quite impressive and they fit well into humorous stereotypes. Credit must go to writers, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson for making the characters original but stereotypical.

Royal had three child geniuses. Ben Stiller (Chas Tenenbaum) is a control-freak financial "gamechanger" businessman who wears strange tracksuits, which his sons wear too. Luke Wilson is cool as Richie Tenenbaum, a tennis champion who collapsed because of a confusing love story in his life. Gwyneth Paltrow (Margot Tenenbuam) is an interesting adopted daughter. She is an award-winning playwright.

All three children were very successful in their teens. But life has been disappointing for them since. Chas is a widower. Margot is lacking direction in her life. She has not written anything in years. She married a much older neurologist called Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray), and is not sure if she loves him. I enjoyed the clever layers of "dysfunctionalness" within the film. Royal is going through an existential crisis and his children are going through early mid-life crises. The children find themselves living with their mother, because they do not feel strong feelings of love from their father.

But even their mother, Etheline, has an unclear agenda which develops later in the film. She is now engaged to a more settled, stable person than Royal; Henry Sherman (Danny Glover). But she still opens herself up to Royal.

All of the Tenenbaums grew up in strange circumstances, even their childhood friend, who is now a surprisingly successful novelist, Eli (Owen Wilson). He is clearly still looking to fit into the Tenenbaum brood, however. Every character is damaged but audiences may not be able to handle the film's attempts at explaining this damage. You may not care that much about every weirdo in the film.

Is the movie funny? It is but it is funny in a sweet way. This is in line with Anderson's style. It's offbeat and rich in originality.

The movie is not obvious in what it wants to portray either. How is one supposed to react to things on screen? This is a charm that it has but it can get tiring. Perhaps people can be made to think about off-kilter topics too much in a film?

It is visually exciting. Robert Yeoman is a talented cinematographer. He has worked on every live action Wes Anderson film and he has established a fresh look. The art direction is original too. The characters' costumes are also fresh.

Verdict: If you feel like an offbeat, original comedy, watch The Royal Tenenbaums. But be prepared to see some strange scenes and meet some odd characters. It is not a run-of-the-mill comedy. It is depressing at times and beautiful at others. It is worth a viewing at least to witness some strong chemistry from some of the world's most watched actors.

Alistair Anderson

The Royal Tenenbaums is available now on DVD.

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