The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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Food: Spent the evening at a neighborhood favorite restaurant called Panna II Garden Indian Restaurant. Covered in twinkling Christmas lights from head to toe, and stuffing customers in shoulder to shoulder, this unique atmosphere is a popular Saturday night hot spot. With a BYOB policy, my roommates and I brought a bottle of red wine, but I warn you – do not fill the glasses on the table that they provide with your wine because it will be very difficult to get water glasses after that. I got the chicken tikka masala which is a good go-to, but I would also recommend the Vegetable Dhansak or the Vegetable Makhni.

Film: The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite Wes Anderson film, written by him and also Owen Wilson. Even while told in Anderson’s typical quirky flare, this is a drama comedy that seems to be one of his most accessible films yet. This is the story about a man named Royal Tenenbaum and his wife Etheline, who had three children and then separated. Each Tenenbaum child showed a supreme level of brilliance at a young age, only to fall into disaster or failure by adulthood. Their father is much to blame, and had remained mostly estranged from their lives.

Reaching their early thirties, all three children end up returning to Etheline’s home where they grew up, and Royal returns to try to make peace with his long lost family. Chas (Ben Stiller) was a child prodigy financier (who bred dalmatian mice), Margot (Gwenyth Paltrow) was an achieved playwright and oft-mentioned was the only one adopted, and Richie (Luke Wilson) a champion tennis player. All were secretive and bizarre children in their own right, and wildly independent. Chas sued his father for taking bonds from his safety deposit box. Margot and Richie run away together and live at the natural history museum.

Chas lost his wife in a plane crash and spends every free moment in a whirlwind of anxiety running through safety procedures with his two young boys, Ari and Uzi. The three of them don matching bright red Adidas track suits and curly dark hair, making them appear as a ridiculous triad. Margot is intensely private. She started smoking at the age of 12, mysteriously lost her finger after a brief disappearance in her teenage years, and haphazardly marries a much older psychologist Dr. Raleigh St. Claire (Bill Murray). Richie after experiencing a sudden bout of depression mid-tennis match and crumbling under the pressure, ruins his career, and escapes for a year long sea expedition. He harbors undisclosed love for his adopted sister Margot, and shares this in a letter with long time family friend, and mediocre Western novel writer Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). Margot, upon hearing this information, breaks up with her husband dispassionately and moves home. Etheline has begun a relationship with her accountant (Danny Glover) and wishes to marry him, but needs to divorce Royal first.

This family has long masked loneliness, misery and fear under their eccentric personalities, but under one roof, these masks wear thin and their tightly wound idiosyncratic facades begin to unravel. Due to impeccable writing, this peculiar type of humor is met with a real sense of affection towards the characters. The Royal Tenenbaums is a silly, genuine, and heartfelt story.

2 replies to “The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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