Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Film Decade List #4: The Royal Tenenbaums

The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, USA, 2001)

For all its visual and plot quirks, The Royal Tenenbaums is Wes Anderson's best at getting real emotion out of his story and characters. A lot of criticism of Anderson has been he places his visual world above reliable storytelling but here, I don't feel that argument can be made. In telling of the dysfunctional Tenenbaum family, he creates characters and situations that are grounded in backstory and are a true function of their characters' experiences. Gene Hackman is great as patriarch Royal Tenenbaum, back into his family's life, telling them he's dying but just in need of a place to stay after getting booted from his hotel. Royal interjects a lifeblood into the family that had apparently been missing for some time, and at the same time bringing back old wounds. It's a work of melancholy disguised as comedy but the lighter moments make the darker moments more poignant and the funny one funnier. Anderson set this all this in a highly fabricated world that seems to turn off as many cineastes as it appeals to the average moviegoer of my age. His visual quirks and use of rock music definitely appeal to a certain audience and I happen to be one. I find the film to be a sweetly portrayed dark comedy that has an auteurist flair that prevents it from being twee or artificial.

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