Great Films You Might Have Missed- The Royal Tenenbaums
Mark Kermode once said that what makes a film great is its ability to keep showing you something new, even on repeat viewings: I agree with him. However, whilst Kermode was writing about 70s horror classic The Exorcist, I believe that his theory also applies to Wes Anderson’s absurdist masterpiece, The Royal Tenenbaums.
The films concerns itself with the Tenenbaum family; the divorced parents Royal and Etheline and their children, former child prodigies who have become depressed, barely functioning adults. Beginning with the revelation that Etheline is going to marry her accountant, this causes the uproariously amoral Royal (played by a career-best Gene Hackman) to fake a life-threatening illness to thwart the union and reconcile with his estranged children.
The plot is utterly labyrinthine but then again so is the humour, very much echoing Kermode’s adage of finding new things. I must’ve seen this film about twenty times, and yet I still find new things to chuckle at, whether a one-liner, a sight gag or even Royal’s crass demeanour. It’s richly textured, and entirely the better for it.
I’ll be honest, this is a strange film. Anderson and Wilson’s absurdist screenplay won’t be for everyone, but for those who like to think about their comedy, it shows both a great director (Anderson) and great actors (Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson… the list goes on) at the top of their game. This makes The Royal Tenenbaums remarkable.