((note: this has not been properly edited but id like your thoughts))
Approaching his mid-thirties Wes Anderson has emerged as one of the most brilliant and promising young directors to emerge from American cinema in recent memory. His films capture the joy of human interaction with an awkward confidence delivered through witty, honesty, biting dialogue of a dizzying array of complex and diverse characters.
Drawing inspiration from old issues of The New Yorker (and their profiles of eccentric and appealing intellectuals), director Orson Welles The Magnificent Ambersons, and Salinger’s New York among others; 2001s The Royal Tenenbaums, is a story of a family of fallen genius in a somewhat indifferent struggle to rebuild a family that had never really been built to begin with.
Its a story of infinite sadness, the isolation of belonging to a name and the struggle to define ones self as an individual while wishing to belong to a greater whole or perhaps purpose. Expressed in the film by its aging and sympathetic scoundrel of a patriarch Royal Tenenbaum(Gene Hackmen in an brilliant and heartfelt performance) and his three children (Ben Stiller as Chas a financial genius at conception and shrewd broken businessman, Luke Wilson as Richie the former tennis prodigy and tortured failure of an artist, and Gwenyth Paltrow as Margot the adopted daughter of Royal and manic depressive playwright).
After a brilliantly simple and direct opening montage the film begins to open with Royal learning that his estranged wife, Ethaline (Angelica Huston in a understated performance), has been proposed to by her business partner, bridge club member, and long time Mr. Henry Sherman (Dany Glover in sheer elegance). Royal throws himself back into the family, which itself has been broken into several fractured pieces in the last two decades of betrayal and mistrust, bringing them together for the first time in some 17 under the impression that he is dying of a extreme and hopeless case of stomach cancer.
Royal makes it clear he hopes to make up for time lost with his children before he supposed expiration and it is evident that he intends to keep the status quo inside his defunct marriage. He discovers his family in awful shape and to have a general distaste and distrust for himself. Chas has lost his wife and appears to be in the middle of a paranoid repressive breakdown of sorts, locking horns with the father that betrayed him years before in a child’s game of cowboys and indians and refusing Royal contact with his children. Richie, who expresses a distinct understanding love for his father, is a washed up tennis star who has spent the last several years on the high seas seeing the world to no satisfaction falling ever deeper in love with his adopted sister Margot. Margot who spends seven hours a day locked away from her desperate husband watching television soaking a hot bath feeding herself with secret cigarettes. The house is filled with an indescribable tension that makes for an infinitely charming story of failure, depression, love, misunderstanding, confusion, and redemption.
Visually the film is nothing short of gorgeous, painting a picture of a forgotten New York City. Equal parts grit and decay countered with a faded whimsy and grander. Not unlike the Tenenbaums themselves.
Anderson has an amazing sense of visual narrative. His use of color is unmatched in modern filmmaking serving as on of his stylistic stamps. The pastel walls of the Tenebaum home seem telling of those characters that reside between them, seeming to whisper their secret future and past to the audience. One must also note Anderson’s brilliant use of music as a narrative device. Frolicking rock and roll gems from The Clash and Ramones, fun with folk by way of Simon and Garfunkle, and a soulful number by Nick Drake amongst others make for an eclectic yet poetic soundtrack. The songs often lend punctuation and sometimes irony to what are already poignant and powerful scenes.
In a particularly disturbing scene Richie attempts suicide after learning of his adopted sisters love affair with his long time friend and confidant, Eli Cash (A superb Owen Wilson as a eccentric writer, described as the James Joyce of the old west, who has longed since childhood to be a member of the Tenenbaum family). The scene is accompanied by the haunting “Needle in the Hay” by Elliot Smith a singer songwriter who has struggled throughout his career with his personal demons often expressed and challenged in his quitely aggressive brand of punk inspired folk music.
The Tenenbaums are Anderson’s crowing achievement and will prove to be a classic as Anderson continues to develop new and interesting project to add to his esteemed catalog. In the mean time pop this bad boy in your dvd player to wet your appetite, it gets better with every viewing.
Edited by: geeksheik85 at: 11/12/03 9:58 pm