Matt Jones

Review: The Royal Tenenbaums

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This film is both a comedy and a bleak portrayal of depression; about that fuzzy line between genius and madness. The story follows the father, Royal Tenenbaum [Gene Hackman], as he attempts to right some wrongs and get back together with his family. The prodigious children - one a playwrite, one a successful businessman and the other a champion tennis player - have grown up twisted by their own genius. The playwrite daughter Margot [Gwyneth Paltrow], spends all day in the bathtub watching a portable TV which is secured to the wall so it doesn't fall in the water. Chas [Ben Stiller], successful businessman and widower, brings up his two children to be just like his track-suit clad neurotic self. Richie [Luke Wilson] spends all his time hanging around on cruise ships, having been a world champion tennis player who has spectacularly flown off the rails. Perhaps the sanest member of the family is the mother, Ethel [Anjelica Huston], she's the one trying to keep the balance in the family, but she is also a victim of the madness surrounding her. The soundtrack includes the song ‘Fly’ by Nick Drake. Drake was a reclusive figure who died as a result of depression, he is also posthumously hailed as a genius. Chas’ pet dog is called ‘Buckley’, and I can't help but think that this is in reference to Tim Buckley, a singer/songwriter who's life/death was just as inspired/tragic as that of Drake. The Royal Tenenbaums is a film about what genius does to the self; it's a comedy in the same way that One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is a comedy, we find humour in other peoples’ illness. I think the team of writer and director Wes Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson (who plays Eli Cash in the film) are a partnership to look out for. I haven't seen their previous films Rushmore or Bottle Rocket, but I want to now.