Reader Request: The Royal Tenenbaums

the royal tenenbaums poster

In August I will be entering a graduate program for Journalism. (Yes, I think so highly of myself as to believe I can one day be paid to write these!) While it is exciting for many reasons, I am most anticipating the electives I will be taking, particularly two script analysis courses.

I am telling you, the public, this for two reasons. First, as a warning that my posts will become much more infrequent at the start of next month. Second, because I feel that to truly appreciate a film you have to understand its foundation: the script. As such, to appreciate a film like The Royal Tenenbaums, you have to look beyond what’s on screen and focus on the fundamentals.



One could say Wes Anderson is an eccentric man and I strongly believe no opposing argument would be proposed. This may be true, but an important trait of his that gets overshadowed by his quirkiness is Anderson’s incredible storytelling ability. After viewing—and loving—Moonrise Kingdom, I decided to read the script and get an idea for how the on-screen theatrics manifested. From seeing his words in print there isn’t a shadow of a doubt in my mind as to how he creates such vivid scenes in his films.

royal-tenenbaums 2

His characters, while generally solemn and quiet, showcase incredible depth of personality that usually ends up making the actors’ jobs easier. Take Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow), for example. She’s a child playwright prodigy, but since she was adopted, Margot has always been more reserved and independent. The exposition surrounding Margot provides the keys to her character in more detail and with more nuance than anything Paltrow could have done—not to say she does a poor job at all.

Similarly, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson have little to do as the Tenenbaum brothers, business and tennis prodigies, respectively. Both actors excel in these roles and it is in large part due to the writing.

the royal tenenbaums 1

The Royal Tenenbaums is Wes Anderson’s opportunity to take family dysfunction and apply some idiosyncrasies to it. The cast is top notch, further boasting names like Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Danny Glover, and of course Bill Murray. Fundamentally, I found the movie to be well-executed and littered with detail. The semi novelization of the film adds to the wealth of character depth. That being said, The Royal Tenenbaums did not stick with me in the way that I anticipated. I found it entertaining, but simultaneously forgettable—case in point, at the time of this writing, it’s 15 hours since I finished it and I had forgotten I watched it.

Tenenbaums is a movie that requires a clear mind, which is not what I have at the moment. If you’re in the right state of mind, I can see why it would skyrocket to the top of your favorites list. I plan on revisiting it after some time because I know there is more to love beyond the script; I’ll just have to find it.

*Since I had so much trouble figuring out how I felt, I’m giving it the most neutral grade I can: B- with High EV.

    • movie snob
    • July 11th, 2013

    I wonder what the fan who requested the review thinks !! While a good flick, quirky still is just quirky even if clever and throughful

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