By Elisha Silk (Houston, Texas)
“That’s a hell of a damned grave. Wish it were mine.”
One need not look far to encounter adoration for Wes Anderson, whose creative genius and artistic renown seem to grow exponentially with each new film. So instead of singing his praises like a factory songbird on methamphetamine, allow me to point out some of the flaws of Generation X’s distinctive Woody Allen (pun intended).
Anderson is almost pretentious in his frequent references to the excesses and appetites of the upper class, and the cultural realms of the intelligentsia; and he is entirely self-indulgent and possibly disingenuous in his musical amalgams of popular classic rock, punk, and artsy folk song accompaniments. Indeed, Anderson lacks the pulse and footing of the average American, and instead breaches into the DNA of the demigods, and expects the rest of us to laugh uncomfortably as if we fully understand the nuances of his humor.
So, simply put, The Royal Tenenbaums is not for everyone. But regardless of individual opinion, this film shines as one the greatest comedic achievements of our time.
An unscrupulous, bankrupt patriarch reunites with his broken family, and attempts to win back his estranged wife and mend his relationships with his grown, once-prodigious children using a shameless lie.
As if the original and ingenious script written by Anderson and Owen Wilson wasn’t enough to seal this film’s place in history, there’s the added nirvana of Gene Hackman’s scene-stealing performance as Royal Tenenbaum, Huston’s brilliant portrayal of the family matriarch, and superior performances by both Wilsons, Stiller, Paltrow, and Murray. And as an added refreshing delight, we get Glover’s fantastic character, and Baldwin’s baritone and suave narration, without the asinine aftertaste of political or personal idiocy that each man exudes in other, less professional settings.
But even casting these wonderful elements aside, the film boasts both subtle and tangible humor, droll and silly laughs, deftly brilliant and overtly ridiculous circumstances. Not to mention Anderson’s signature film cinematography, typographic insertions, and stylistic background sets and colors; perfect narration and scene sequencing; memorable and unique secondary characters (Pagoda, Dusty… Buckley); and a dramatic undertone of redemption and imperfect, but heartfelt reconciliation.
Evidently, some of the characters and situations in this film were inspired by real life persons, events, or art products. I say ignore that nonsense. Instead sit back and take this masterpiece at face value, and watch it twice if you didn’t laugh the first time; you’re not likely to catch Heinsbergen Syndrome by doing so.