The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

I could watch this movie over and over again. I have watched this movie over and over again. And my enjoyment of it doesn't diminish either.

I'm usually a junkie for the most realistic characters and stories available, but this one is just too fantastic. The tall tale of a family of geniuses who suffers because their ego-maniacal father abandoned them is dripping with both sentimentality and the bizarre. Co-writers and producers Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson deliver a masterful intricate story that both charges the viewer with emotion and bursts of laughter.

The cast is stacked. Despite some of the ridiculous aspects of the story (including the breeding of dalmatian mice [I just realized something new after writing this, even after a dozen viewings], a dog surviving a plane crash and landing several thousand yards from the crash site, three ridiculous suitors for the abandoned mother, three siblings being an international financier, award-winning playwright, and tennis pro . . . ), the characters are in tact and accessible. We can empathize with the drug addict, the love sick, the lonely, the fatherless, the depressed, the mourner, the awkward, the flaring tempers, the fearful.

Gene Hackman deserved the Oscar he was nominated for. His bold and selfish characterization of the patriarch Royal Tenenbaum can send both shivers down your spine and double you over with laughter, both at the same time. He dominates every scene he is in, and his counterparts are delivering performances of a lifetime. I don't mention narrators very often, but Alec Baldwin always does a super job at this and in Tenenbaums his voice carries an understated poignancy.

The soundtrack is perfect for the film too. The mainly alternative British 70's carries a mood of snobby New Englander and of nostalgia. Mark Mothersbaugh's film compositions are full of fun energy and gentle lullaby.

Easily one of the most successful intricate films that doesn't leave the viewer scratching his head. There isn't a moment where the screen is devoid of something connected to the story and at the same time not essential to the plot. No viewer gets left behind.

I leave this film knowing a bit more about grace, love, forgiveness. A bit more about God.


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