The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenanbaums
The Royal Tenenbaums [2001], Wes Anderson’s 3rd feature film, follows the tale of the Tenenbaums, a family full of high functioning individuals, but dysfunctional as a whole. Starring Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson and Bill Murray, the film boasts a large and varied cast.

The Royal Tenenwhat? The film opens with a montage introducing many, if not all, of the characters, their likes, dislikes, parentage, history and childhoods through a voiceover. The film dumps a gargantuan amount of information on the audience in without tact and is very inorganic. While the montage is shot in Anderson’s playful and colorful style, it doesn’t detract from the messy and ultimately forced opening montage.

“I’m not colour blind, am I?”As always, it would be impossible to evaluate a Wes Anderson film without bringing mention to his style which is ingrained into the film’s very essence. The abrupt dialogue and movement or the smooth and perfectly executed camera pans make the film visually clean and controlled. Not to mention the fantastic use of colors and flat space, perhaps Anderson’s most striking habit, which builds on the semi-reality nature of all Wes Anderson films (in this case the film appears to be a visualization of a book). Beyond that, his visual style is very effective and overt in conveying information. Characters in a constant state of panic will wear red, important information will be presented clearly through an insert or a close up and characters in isolation will appear trapped within a box or a cage. Anderson’s understanding of the visual medium is very obvious and is shown in his ability to take advantage of what we can see and translate that into what we can feel.

The sinking battleship. As stated earlier the film is packed with characters. Too many characters. Some characters vanish  into the background for dozens of minutes when they were the main focus of the story minutes before that. Not only does it become difficult to connect with the characters when they vanish from the story so readily, but it also is a great shame given there are no bad performances in the film. It’s a waste of talent at worst. Major emotional turning points were blunted by the fact I barely cared for some of the characters. The ending too feels similarly bloated, despite a heartwarming finale. I understand that the nature of a big family means that people will fall in and out of the spotlight, but there are more elegant ways to show this on the screen.

A good mess. While I may not have been all too happy with the way the characters came in and out of focus, it should be added that this is only a gripe because of how good each character is. Each is interesting and odd in their own way. Great thought has gone into why a character acts how they do and what drives them. Held up by fantastic deadpan performances, all the characters feel full and real, it’s just a shame that they are spread too thin across the film.

Like any family, The Royal Tenenbaums is messy but full of interesting people.