The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Comedy, Drama
Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow
An estranged family of former child prodigies reunites when their father announces he is terminally ill.
The Royal Tenenbaums is a delightful adult comedy with many quirks and a sense of poignancy. Many critics especially praised Hackman's performance.
  • Buena Vista Distribution Compa Company:
  • R Rated:
  • IMDB link IMDB:
  • 04 Jan 2002 Released:
  • 09 Jul 2002 DVD Release:
  • $52.3M Box office:
It's more than quirky!9/10

With 'The Royal Tenenbaums', Wes Anderson turns his lens to the American family, warts and all. The Tenenbaums are a dysfunctional family – the parents have been separated for decades, and Royal (Gene Hackman) is a disbarred attorney who has long since moved out of the family's enormous house (in an unnamed city of course). The children, all geniuses and overachievers in their own way, are then raised by Etheline (Angelica Houston), an archeologist. Chas (Ben Stiller) is a financial wizard, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), is adopted and was a published playwright at 11, and Richie (Luke Wilson) is a tennis prodigy. We are provided the family history at the start of the film, then are introduced to the family 22 years later. Chas is still a financial wizard, but, having lost his wife in a plane accident is now the paranoid father of two small sons. Margot is married to Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray, who is basically Anderson's muse), is depressed and hasn't written in years, and Richie, after having a nervous breakdown on the tennis court a couple of years earlier is traveling the world by boat. Still hanging around is Eli (Owen Wilson) a long-time family friend from across the street who is now a literature professor and successful novelist. Etheline is being wooed by her accountant, Henry (Danny Glover) and when Royal gets wind of this, he embarks on a bid to win his family back after not speaking with them for years.

Wes Anderson has an unusual style of film-making that has been static throughout his career. Highly theatrical, almost in the style of a play, he presents the story of the Tenenbaums to us as if it were taken directly from a book, so much so that if you were to read the few sentences that are visible in the book that accompanies the beginning of each 'chapter', you would see that the written narrative follows the action to the letter. Anderson favors primary colors, and characters that are identifiable by very distinct appearances. Chas and his sons have their red track suits they always wear, Margot wears the clip in her hair, Izod dresses from the 80's and dark eyeliner surrounding her eyes, Richie wears the sweatband around his head, Eli is in cowboy gear and Raleigh looks like a Freud knockoff. One of the results is that there are varying degrees of recognition for the actor in 'real life'. When seeing Raleigh, it's easy to forget that it is Bill Murray, and Margot for that matter is so different from how we are used to seeing Paltrow. Certainly, this is Anderson's intent. Anderson also favors point of view shots, characters looking directly at or addressing the camera, and is also one of the few modern masters in the use of music. The soundtrack to 'The Royal Tenenbaums' features some classic songs (Ruby Tuesday, Hey Jude) but also has some obscure tracks that are bizarre and fit into the scene beautifully.

'The Royal Tenenbaums' has a phenomenal cast, and all of the actors are excellent in the film. I get the strong impression that, since Anderson isn't a mainstream film director, A-list actors sign up to work for him because of his alternative vision and his obvious talent. When I watched this film recently, I asked the two friends I saw it with what they thought, and they both said 'It was quirky'. Since they are both film lovers, I was a little disappointed in this narrow (and obvious) assessment of the film at first. Upon further reflection, however, I realized that they both come from households that have parents who are still together. Coming from a 'broken home' I can relate to the high dysfunction of the Tenenbaums as an adult and embrace the story beyond the presentation, despite its highly stylized format. 'The Royal Tenenbaums' is a brilliant film that is both emotional and eye-catching, and truly cements Wes Anderson as an exciting and talented filmmaker. 9/10

--Shelly
Thank you Wes Anderson! The film is brilliant!9/10

I think if someone tries to watch a Wes Anderson film, they have to have a certain kind mind to understand the real meaning of them. After being awed by the Royal Tenenbaums, I left with a certain kind of joy that only a great film can give me. It's like flying an electric kite, it's that hard of a buzz. As I began my travel down the stairs of the theater, I heard this couple talking about how stupid the movie was, and how they are going to ask for a refund. I suddenly smiled, because I hoped that they would get one. I think that I got something out of the film that they didn't. That inside the frames of the movie I felt like I was in good company and had a understanding for the material that they didn't. What is so good about the Royal Tenenbaums? The great detail in every frame, from the costumes (and they really are costumes)to the design of Chas, Margot, and Richie rooms and the house. This is brilliant film on every level, a delight for the senses and for the mind. This movie makes you think, and without giving too much away there is a lot of surprises that come from the characters dialogue and their past. High kudos go to Luke Wilson, I loved his performance as the suffering Richie. If you loved Rushmore, there is no doubt that you will love this film because it is at par with it, except that its a bit darker in tone. I think its funny that way that people look at film, we each love or hate a film based on our own perception(and mind there are people who just watch film for entertainment). So if you have a complicated mind and you enjoy watching a challenging film, then the Royal Tenenbaums is for you. As for me, I plan on watching it again so I find more things to love about it. Thank you Wes Anderson, so much. You made laugh, you made me smile and I cried. A thousand times, thank you!
The perfect balance of drama and comedy10/10
I loved this film.

The Tenenbaum's dysfunction (while amplified for the screen) is quite an accurate portrayal of family life. Families are, essentially, groups of people living in each other's pockets, and, invariably, those people who love you and hate you the most.

Don't get me wrong, Royal and his (thermo)nuclear family of brilliant buffoons do not represent my family (or any other in the world I think!) but the family united against a miscreant father is a motif a lot of people can understand. It is this common humanity that really appeals to me as a film watcher, and what, ultimately made this film so very memorable to me.

The ensemble cast is astonishingly proficient. They all lend a perfect quirkiness to the roles. Anjelica Houston is the perfect former Mrs Royal Tenenbaum, down to the smallest nuance, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson turn in wonderful performances, and this is the only role I've seen Gwenyth Paltrow in where I actually thought she was someone other than Gwenyth Paltrow (this is not an insult, it's just that people don't always do it for everyone, you know...?). Bill Murray, Gene Hackman, Owen Wilson, all excellent, all the time.

The black comedy counterbalanced with the drama of the issues raised in this film left me feeling like I'd witnessed a film event, rather than just another film. I loved every frame of it, from the Baldwin narrated opening, to the final tying up of ends. It never dwelled on melodrama, or the more potentially unsavoury elements, and it didn't sink into the schmaltzy "We all love each other" end it could well have. It began perfectly, and it ended perfectly.

I can't recommend this movie more highly. It's a must see for anyone who loves quirky and emotive storytelling, great characters and beautiful dialogue.

10/10
Beauty found in comic places10/10
The Royal Tenenbaums, to put it shortly, is a weird movie. It is the story of a family longing for its heyday to return. It is the story of a man who wants to be accepted. It is a story of redemption, filled with small epiphanies and smaller details that make for excellent viewing. It takes delight in showcasing its brilliant characterizations and depictions of social oddities. Many will find it hard to relate to such strangers and therefore decline to revel in this film's cinematic glory. We can pity them.

Those that enjoy Wes Anderson's films can be put into two categories. There are those that simply find them to be quirky joyrides and laugh them off as such. Then there are those who recognize the loneliness in all of the characters Wes Anderson writes - it is this sense of loneliness that Wes Anderson, as a storyteller, brings to the screen. It is this sense of loneliness that makes Wes Anderson one of the most visionary filmmakers out there today.

The Royal Tenenbaums is an altogether thrilling experience. It is epic, filled with pageantry. Though categorized as a comedy, at times it seems darker then typical black comedies - a drama, or even a triumphant tragedy of life's unrealized outcasts. As Margot Tenenbaum (Gwenyth Paltrow) says in one of the last scenes: "Well, I'm sure he'll get over it." The Royal Tenenbaums is a rejoicing in the human spirit's reluctant but continuous march forward.
Wonderful, hilarious and dark. A great film.5/10

Writing/Director team Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson follow up their wonderful 1999 film Rushmore with something not completely different but altogether more satisfying and a good deal more powerful.

The Tenenbaums are a wealthy New York family of eccentric genuises, headed by Angelica Huston. The pater familias Gene Hackman has been kicked out and estranged from the family for twenty years. The film begins with a prologue detailing the lives of the Tenenbaum clan - Ben Stiller, the real estate genius and safety obsessive, now widowered with two boys. Luke Wilson a former tennis wunderkind, now an isolated, lonely character all alone in the world and Gwyneth Paltrow, the adopted daughter, playwright, depressive and all-round misery guts. Other players include Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and Danny Glover.

The excellent cast is testament to the fantastic script. Filled with one-liners, hilarious situations and visual gags, it is a real winner. However, it would be a mistake to take this for an out-and-out comedy. Two-thirds in, the script takes a turn for the utterly dark with a bloody, affecting scene, not to everyone's taste and at odds with the film gone beforehand. It's a brave move by Wilson and Anderson and one that pays off in dividends, elevating this movie above others in the genre.

Hackman gives as good as he's got as Royal Tenenbaum, who takes a turn for the better when his kids wake him up to the kind of man he really is. His transformation from manipulative and selfish to a genuinely lonely and honest man is wholly believable. When he emerges as the only man who can bring the whole family together again, it really brings a smile to your face. The rest of the cast, with the exception of Luke Wilson, aren't given a huge amount to do but do extremely well with what they've got. Luke Wilson is superb, playing the confused and alienated Richie, at odds with himself and the rest of his family. His is possibly the best character in the film, symbolising all that is wrong with the Tenanbaum clan.> As usual, The Royal Tenenbaums is rife with Anderson's distinctive directorial touches - 90 degree overhead shots, dialogue-free sequences played to classic rock anthems, and memorably, towards the end, a one-take canvas shot, as beautiful as it is inspired.

Special mention must also be given to the New York painted in the film. All Georgian houses, tree-lined avenues and flat sky lines, it's one of the most beautiful depections of this city ever seen in a movie.

All in all, a delighful tragi-comedy, with great characters, lush direction and great gags. Don't miss it!