Royal Tenenbaums

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Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover

Director: Wes Anderson

Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) and his wife (Angelica Houston) had 3 children – Chas (Ben Stiller as an adult), Richie (Luke Wilson a/a) and Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow a/a) who were incredibly successful. Chas started earning his fortune in real estate, eventually buying out his father’s holiday home. Margot (adopted) became several things (anything to shock her parents and rebel) before settling down to become a successful playwright (she originally received a $50,000 grant in her ninth grade which paid for her to live the lifestyle she wanted without bothering her parents). Richie went on to become a famous tennis player, winning the US National three years in a row, before ‘burning out’ and travelling the world by sea.

They were famous, rich and successful but couldn’t avoid something that plagues a great deal of people from all backgrounds – their parents found they could no longer live with each other and got divorced. Since then the Tenenbaums brilliance and gifts were overshadowed by reports of breakdowns and betrayals, genuinely considered to be their father’s fault. This wasn’t contested for years until Royal finds himself evicted (he is kicked out of his hotel for non-payments) and thinks it’s time for a family reunion. Not that he knows his family at all anymore, but it would guarantee a roof over his head. He knows that they won’t accept him back with open arms so Royal concocts a story that he is dying of cancer and in the 6 weeks he has left to live, he wants to get to know his family again. The family falls for the story (with the help of several of Royal’s friends backing his story up) and the movie follows Royal’s attempts to get to know his family once again. To make up for lost time before time runs out.

What ends up happening however is that the family begins to get to know themselves and really don’t altogether like what they find.

This new movie from Wes Anderson (RUSHMORE) and co – written by / starring Owen Wilson (SHANGHAI NOON, ZOOLANDER) is one of the strangest movies to come out of Hollywood this year. Don’t go to this movie expecting the excellent cast to make you cry with laughter. Leave out the laughter bit. This movie chronicles human frailties in a compassionate as well as amusing fashion. As I’ve said the cast are all superb. Luke Wilson is really becoming one of the best supporting actors in Hollywood at the moment, but the real surprises, bar an excellent turn from Paltrow, are Danny Glover, who as the timid Henry Sherman gives a performance of great pathos – as well as the always reliable Bill Murray who really is coming into his own as a seriously talented actor after years of stealing scenes playing the fool.

To try to describe THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS briefly would do it an injustice in the fact that it’s one of those movies that you will either love or loathe. I left feeling disappointed but on reflection, several scenes kept popping into my mind long after I left the cinema and I found myself praising these scenes to others – always the sign of a good movie although it does have it’s fair share of flaws (the second stabbing of Royal by his Indian helper did seem a tad forced and unnecessary).

Make your own mind up, but if you want to see a movie on it’s initial release that will gain a larger audience and greater respect as the years pass, then go and see THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS now.

Dr Kuma’s verdict: A film with great character(s).

4 out of 6 stars