Cult film of the week: The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums. Image: Touchstone Pictures.
The Royal Tenenbaums. Image: Touchstone Pictures.
The Royal Tenenbaums. Image: Touchstone Pictures.

In recent years Wes Anderson seems to have garnered a cult following. Cinephiles have strong opinions on his work and seem to either absolutely love or hate it. People dress up as Wes Anderson characters for fancy dress parties, his characters have Instagram, and there is a Tumblr named kanyewesanderson, which is a mashup of Wes Anderson’s movies and Kanye West’s lyrics.

Anderson emerged as a filmmaker in the early 1990s and directed two movies, Bottle Rocket starring his college roommate and BFF Owen Wilson, and Rushmore, introducing a young Jason Schwartzman and starring the great Bill Murray. They were both critical successes and established him as an indie director who great actors were willing to work with. He is now known for his wonderful ensemble cast films and there is perhaps no finer example of this than The Royal Tenenbaums whose stellar cast includes the legendary Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and the Wilson Brothers. The movie was critical success, the screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award and Hackman won a Golden Globe for his performance. It was also Anderson’s biggest box office success until 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom.

The movie follows the lives of three gifted siblings – Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), Richie (Luke Wilson) and Chas (Ben Stiller) – who were child geniuses but have failed to develop in their adult lives. The characters were somewhat inspired by J.D. Salinger’s Glass family. Their parents Etheline (Anjelica Huston) and Royal (Gene Hackman) separated when they were young, but Royal Tenenbaum pretends to be dying due to financial difficulties and finds himself back at the family home with his children trying to improve their dysfunctional relationships.

The movie has an interesting plot but as with Anderson’s other work, what makes it special is its quirky style, its fantastic choice of music, and the fact that Anderson himself dares to be different. You feel like you have entered another world and for some it’s a world they would love to live in.

I highly recommend The Royal Tenenbaums for those unacquainted with Anderson’s work. It’s a great starting point due to its accessible content and stellar characterisation and cast. I am a huge fan of all of Anderson’s work but The Royal Tenenbaums is a personal favourite, perhaps because it was the first film of his that I saw but also because it is one of his more personal films and is so brilliantly crafted.


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