The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
USA / English
"Family Isn't A Word... It's A Sentence. "An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when one of their member announces he has a terminal illness.
`Different' comedy that uses it's quirks well to produce a wonderful film
Royal and Etheline O'Rielly raised three children to be child prodigies.
However years later we find that all the children have fallen on hard times
since their father left. Royal Tenebaum hears that his wife has been
proposed to by another man and resolves to get involved in his family's life
again with the support of his son Richie.
Marketed as a sort of laugh a minute comedy I did feel a little tricked by
this. However I never once felt cheated by this. Instead I was quite glad
that I had been able to see something that is intelligent, funny, dark and
yet totally off the wall. The story is told in story book fashion, with
narrator Alec Baldwin talking us through the start of some scenes. The
story starts years ago and then jumps to find all the characters messed up.
The story is quite straight and downbeat. However the characters are so
quirky that you can't help but get involved. Instead of hackneyed messages
or points this story lets you decide yourself.
The writing is superb. Instead of clumsy comedy this is clever – full of
witty clever dialogue and physical humour that doesn't take away form the
story by being silly. The writing manages to keep us involved in a story
that could have been far-fetched with characters far too quirky to exist.
Anderson also excels in direction – at times it all feels a little too
stylised, but for the most part it works well. His soundtrack is different
– but is very well used.
There is so much good to say about this that I don't know where to end. The
cast is excellent with Hackman being the standout – the only criticism being
that some of the actors have little to do, Murray in particular is
underused. Even the dread Paltrow is good here. Of course you can't hide
talent – and the Wilson brothers shine throughout.
Of course it is very slow and feels a bit stilted at times. The comedy is
dark rather than consistently laugh out loud funny, but there is still
plenty for the multiplex generation to laugh at. The dark tone also is a
little unsettling and some of the characters are hard to get involved with,
and some of the symbolism is difficult to get (the whole thing with the bird
feels corny and confused).
However these are minor complaints. It's not one of the best films ever
made but it's different, funny, clever and thoughtful – that's good enough