Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
USA, 2001. Touchstone Pictures, American Empirical Pictures. Screenplay by Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson. Cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman. Produced by Wes Anderson, Barry Mendel, Scott Rudin. Music by Mark Mothersbaugh. Production Design by David Wasco. Costume Design by Karen Patch. Film Editing by Dylan Tichenor.
The creators of Rushmore have returned with an even better comedy, one that centres around a troubled family who have hit rock bottom and need help to be pushed into the next phase of their lives. Royal Tenenbaum (an excellent Gene Hackman) is the long-absent patriarch of the family who returns to the household to announce he is terminally ill. His return couldn’t be more perfectly timed: his three children, once geniuses as youngsters, have all seen better days. Chas (Ben Stiller), a wall-street champion by the time he was in junior high, has come undone since the tragic death of his wife in a plane crash; Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), an award-winning playwright by the age of nine, is trapped in an unhappy marriage and hasn’t completed a play in seven years; Richie (Luke Wilson), a tennis champion by seventeen, quit the game after a bad loss and has been travelling around the world on an ocean liner for years. The brilliant examination of family dysfunction here lies in the possibility that these kids weren’t geniuses because of any preternatural gifts they were born with, but because their unhappiness with their parents’ separation at a young age possibly forced them to try so much harder to fit in in the world. Now that Royal has returned, are they able to come together again as a family and improve their lives? Anjelica Huston is terrific as the children’s mother, who is herself hoping to marry a goldhearted accountant (Danny Glover) if her husband will either give her a divorce or die first. The beautiful trick that director Wes Anderson plays on his audience is that though the film is hilariously bent throughout most of its running time, it reveals itself to be incredibly touching by its conclusion, and the characters you have been watching will have really endeared themselves to you.
The Criterion Collection: #157
Academy Award Nomination: Best Original Screenplay
Berlin Film Festival: In Competition
Golden Globe Award: Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Gene Hackman)