‘Tenenbaums’ is a Royal mess

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Directed by Wes Anderson

6/10  R

Wes Anderson is a complicated son-of-a-gun. As much as I’m a fan of strong character development, I’m just as much opposed to superfluous characters. How am I supposed to relate? How am I expected to understand a closet smoker, a has-been tennis star, or an overly cautious widower? I’ve never been any of those things. And these are barely people. Characters are generally slightly better looking, more perfect (or drastically imperfect) people. Anderson’s characters are just that – characters. I heard Anderson’s detail-oriented, artsy-fartsy, and flair-filled style is divisive. I can see why.

“The Royal Tenenbaums” is a 2001 film starring Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and Gwyneth Paltrow. It sounds like something familiar, but it’s not. Anderson’s sarcastic, clever comedy has its moments. Gene Hackman, as the heartless prick of a patriarch, takes this odd character and makes it his own. He’s totally in his element. But I feel no connection. Even at its most cerebral and emotional, I can’t find it in my heart to feel empathy…or even sympathy. Anderson seemed to forget about sewing up the loose ends of the story (it’s tough to use depression well in film…Anderson doesn’t) and worried more about aesthetics. I’ll admit that the details in character and setting are memorable. I’m a huge fan of strong, memorable characters – Indiana Jones, Lisbeth Salander, Forrest Gump – but I also need good story. “The Royal Tenenbaums” didn’t give me that.

6 thoughts on “‘Tenenbaums’ is a Royal mess

  1. I found this film a huge disappointment too, after seeing his previous film, Rushmore. Rushmore is still one of my favourite films of all time and Anderson has not got anywhere near the perfect balance of humour and affection since, which is a real shame…

    1. This was my first Anderson film, but I plan on giving him one more shot. I think I’ll try Moonrise Kingdom, but if that one doesn’t do it I don’t expect to try again. Thanks for reading!

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