Friday, June 15, 2012

The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)

The Royal Tenenbaums is a story of five psychologically unstable and immensely melancholic individuals. The Tenenbaums own a gigantic house in New York. The patriarch is the Royal Tenenbaum who has left his family behind and leaves in a rented hotel room with his loyal attendant Pagan (who once tried to kill Royal in India), essentially on credit. His wife Etheline, who has an African-American accountant-cum-suitor, looks after the three gifted children, but all of them have turned into neurotic adults. Chas was a financial virtuoso as a kid who has lost her wife in a plane crash and since then has become hysterical about his two children's safety. Margot was adopted who had won a big literary prize as a kid and is caught in a loveless marriage with a psychiatrist with no offspring. Richie was once a tennis champion in the international circuit who threw away his career and secretly harbors a deep love for Margot. All of them live in the mansion except Royal Tenenbaum. Their most prominent neighbor is Eli who writes best-selling Westerns that receive terrible reviews and who is also in love with Margot. Even though they share the mansion, each of them is an island in itself. Eccentric behavior of each Tenenbaum covers a grave sense of loneliness. Amid all these, Royal Tennebaum fakes cancer during a dinner-table conversation seemingly in a bid to get close to his three children and win back his estranged wife. Some of the Tenenbaums respond with pity and arrange for Royal to stay with them. However, Etheline's suitor reveals in a spell of jealousy that Royal has been untruthful about his illness, which causes an immediate eviction of Royal from the family home. After a string of bizarre events, everything falls into the right place: Etheline and her suitor take the vow, Richie and Margot reveal their love for each other, for the first time in the family history Chass displays emotion and love for his father and lets go of his OCD regarding safety concerns, Eli accepts his mediocrity and renounces his love for Margot, Margot's husband writes a famous book on one of his patient's delusions, and Royal Tenenbaum passes away, peacefully. Nobody knows of Pagan, though. Wes Anderson's film is an uncommon combination of comedy and sadness. There are situations that produce big laughter and there are moments of quietness. But just when a contemplative and gloomy scene evokes sentimentality on the screen, Anderson suffuses the scene with edgy comedy or sarcasm. This queer juxtaposition of sorrow and humor has always been a defining feature of all of Anderson's works. Characters in Anderson's films almost always verge on the eccentric side of the persona and all of them suffer from a collective delusion out of which an orderliness emerges. The Royal Tetenbaums is no exception. The movie is effortlessly funny, flagrantly peculiar, and emotionally uncertain. At a fundamental level, the film documents a broken family's preposterous effort to carve out strategies to find emotional connectivity and strange characters' outlandish mannerisms to hide their emotional loneliness.

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