The Royal Tenenbaums is one of Wes Anderson’s earliest works. While it may not have the prestige of a Grand Budapest Hotel, it is still one of my favorite movies from Anderson. It has the same charm one would expect out of a Wes Anderson movie. His movies always feel like they were plucked right out of a book. They are so unique, he is one of the best directors/ writers at just telling a story.
Royal Tenenbaums follows the story of a wealthy but completely dysfunctional family. It stars Gene Hackman, in one of his last roles before he retired, and he knocks it out of the park. Also in the movie, Gwentyth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, and of course, Bill Murray. All give great performances. Royal left the family many years ago, but now as he gets older, he realizes he wants his family back. But instead of going to them and being honest, he tries to trick them back into his life, and fake having a fatal illness.
He is not the only dysfunctional family member though, as his three children are a mess as well. Luke Wilson plays Richie, a former Tennis star who had a nervous breakdown and has been traveling the world on a cruise ship. Ben Stiller plays Chas who lost his wife in a house fire and has become neurotic and way too overprotective of his children. Paltrow plays Margot, who married a much older man she doesn’t love, hides her smoking from everyone, and is incapable of expressing herself. There is also their childhood neighbor, Eli, played by Owen Wilson, who is an addict.
Watching these characters try to interact can be both awkward, and hilarious. None of them are well adjusted, and none of them can just say what their problem is. So it makes for crazy situations. Royal continues to dig himself a deeper and deeper hole with the family that no longer trusts him, by explaining the lies he tells with more lies. And while that is happening, there is an unconventional love story between Richie and Margot, who are adoptive siblings.
It can all be so awkward but in such a satisfying way. The movie jumps around between the many characters and plot threads, but it never gets too complicated to follow. The story itself is pretty straightforward, but it is framed in a clever way to make it seem complex. The characters are all interesting, though not all likable. Seeing these people attempt to interact despite not having social graces is quite funny.
As with all Wes Anderson movies, it is very well directed. His visual style is so distinct and works really with this story because it adds to the storybook feel. Royal Tenenbaums is such a joy to watch. I still think Grand Budapest Hotel is a little better, but this is still a fantastic movie.