Lodged somewhere between fantasy and fable, fast-paced comedy and character-driven melancholia, Anderson’s films have been described as being at best beautiful yet honest, agonisingly emotional and possessed of an embraceable grown up whimsy. At worst they are repetitive, shallow, and stuffed with supercilious oddities. In short, they are not to everyone’s taste.
The characters themselves are a quirk away from reality, the cinematography meticulously detailed and artistically shot, and the narratives centre upon the dynamic between the family we are born into and the family which we create for ourselves.
The Royal Tenenbaums is no different. Released in 2001 as a follow up to Rushmore, the tale of a precocious and eccentric schoolboy floundering in a world of adult emotion, Anderson’s picture-book family drama explores the lives of the Tenenbaum family after “two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster” that has turned the three once prodigal children (played by Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson) into adult neurotics. Each in their own eccentric world of emotional turmoil, the film explores their descent into even further dysfunction when reunited under the same roof for the first time since childhood, and their estranged father’s unpopular return to the family in an attempt to ‘win them back’.
Narrated by Alec Baldwin and with some stellar performances from Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Danny Glover and Owen Wilson, it is ultimately Gene Hackman’s turn as Royal himself, the philandering, lying, bastard who raises this film out of the depths of sentimentality and makes this film truly worth the watch.
Now available on Netflix.