The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, dir. Wes Anderson)
First Watch // Rewatch (9-2-13)
Plot Summary: An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when one of their member announces he has a terminal illness. Starring Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, and Owen Wilson.
Review: I love it when I rewatch a movie and I like it way more than when I first saw it. Maybe it’s because I was half asleep the first time, but I thought it was overrated, two stars at best. As you can see, my opinion has changed after a fully conscious viewing last night.
The film relies completely on the performances of the actors, as the storyline itself is kind of thin. It’s all about the characters, like in most Anderson movies. The best part of the film is Luke Wilson as Richie, the youngest Tenenbaum. He’s in love with his (adopted) sister Margot (Paltrow), who overall is kind of a brat, but just as with his father Royal (Hackman), Richie sees the good in her. He is so full of love, and his performance touched me deeply even the first time I saw the movie.
On the second viewing however, Chas (Stiller) affected me as well. His character is revealed to us slowly as his relationship with his father is explored, and one scene in particular stands out to me. (spoiler). At the end of the film, a car crash kills Chas’s dog Buckley, and Royal buys a dalmatian off of a fireman to replace him. As Chas pets the dog, he looks up at his father and says, “I’ve had a rough year, Dad.” Royal replies, “I know, son.” And in that moment, we see the weight of everything Chas has gone through, and that Royal understands too. It’s a beautiful moment, and I actually started crying. It’s probably my favorite part of the entire movie. (end spoiler).
Once you look past the absurd aspects of the movie, and the heavy Anderson feeling of falseness that makes you hyper-aware that you’re watching a movie, there are some characters that are truly, honestly, real and affecting. I wish that certain characters - Margot in particular - had been more fleshed out to give us an actual sense of investment in their fates, but the characters that are well-defined almost make up for it. While I might not agree that this is Anderson’s masterpiece, it’s a lot better than I initially thought. Always rewatch movies, people!
In short: A classic exercise in Anderson-ian family life, with a handful of powerful performances.