The Royal Tenenbaums - rated - HOT! HOT! HOT!

Oh, Tenenbaum!

This movie is so rich and layered, I feel as if I need to see it again before I can give my final analysis. But my verdict after one viewing is - it's great!

The word Tenenbaum means "Christmas Tree" in German, and this film is like a Christmas gift. It is so full of delights and treats - precious moments tumble out like stocking stuffers. And the film is worth seeing just to look at the art - both the art direction, and the art on the walls of the characters.

Director Wes Anderson has made two previous films: Bottle Rocket (1996) and Rushmore (1998). I haven't seen the former, but I loved Rushmore, which, like Tenenbaums, was chock full of terrific ideas and fabulous characters.

The script, by Anderson and actor Owen Wilson (who appears in the film as the wonderfully deadpan Eli Cash). And what a set of performances! Gene Hackman is marvellous in the role of Royal Tenenbaum, the patriarch. His scenes with Anjelica Huston are knockouts. Gwyneth Paltrow. Luke Wilson and Ben Stiller are all marvellously glum as the terminally neurotic and depressed Tenenbaum kids. Only Bill Murray, as Raleigh St Clair, disappoints. Could it be because Bill Murray playing even more depressed than usual is just too down-beat to perceive?

The whole montage in which Royal tries to teach his grandchildren how to have fun is hilarious, played against Paul Simon's joyous "Me and Julio down by the Schoolyard" (one of the all-time great pop rhymes!). Watch for the homage (in miniature) to the chase scene in Hackman's The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971).

A few days after seeing Tenenbaums, I happened to see The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles, 1942) and I realised the connection immediately, which made me even more thrilled with this film. Wes Anderson is so clever. But he's also hysterically funny, and not at all afraid of the non sequitur.

The sound track is quirky and at the same time all-of-a-piece with the film. I understand that Anderson began the film with the idea of Nico singing "These Days". The film is also the only film in which I've heard two consecutive songs from the same album (The Rolling Stones "Between the Buttons" played back-to-back.

See it more than once.

© Michèle M Asprey 2002

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