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Films to See Before You Die: #31 The Royal Tenenbaums


The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray

Synopsis: Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman and Anjelica Houston) are a wealthy couple living in New York City with their three children, all of whom are incredibly gifted in particular fields. Their older son Chas (Ben Stiller) is a genius of finance and chemistry, their adopted daughter Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) is a recognized playwright, and younger son Richie (Luke Wilson)  is a tennis prodigy. After many years the family has fallen out of touch and out of favour as Royal and Etheline are separated. Chas’ wife recently died in a plane crash leaving him alone to take care of his two boys. Margot has written several plays and is now married to esteemed neurologisyt Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray), but is actually having an affair with family friend and novelist Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). Richie eventually burned out and retired from professional tennis and currently is sailing the high seas trying to wrap his mind around being in love with Margot. Through various circumstances each of the Tenenbaum kids return home for the first time in over 20 years. Now Etheline has been seeing Henry Sherman (Danny Glover) for quite some time and he has just proposed to her. This news along with being recently kicked out of the hotel he was staying in prompts Royal to return to his family with a false diagnosis of cancer. Royal starts to bond with his grandchildren and reconnect with Etheline but neither Mr. Sherman nor Chas believe that Royal is telling the truth. When it is revealed to everyone that Royal had been lying about his condition because he was homeless he is kicked out of the house. Now living at the local Y Royal must now try and might things right with his family before it is too late.

Trivia: Gene Hackman mentioned in interviews that he was somewhat hesitant to accept the part, as he felt that he himself had been insensitive to his own family at different points in his life. He asked them if they would find him playing this character uncomfortable for their own sake. They all agreed he should accept the part. Etheline Tenenbaum’s character is loosely based on director Wes Anderson’s own mother Ann Buroughs who, after divorcing his father, became an archaeologist. Burroughs’ actual glasses are worn by Etheline.

Why I think you should see this: I love Wes Anderson’s films and The Royal Tenenbaums is my favourite of them all. Gene Hackman is so amazing as Royal and Anjelica Huston is also pretty awesome as Etheline. Luke Wilson is awesome as Ritchie probably my favourite Tenenbaum. Everyone else in the cast is pretty great too. Other really good Wes Anderson films to check out are Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou all are super quirky and fun to watch. This is a must see in my opinion check it out sometime.


About Trevor

Hi my name is Trevor and this is my blog! Films are a passion of mine. I am a total film geek. I own over 700 films and the collection is ever growing. I studied Film Studies and Scriptwriting in College. What I have learned about films is mostly self taught.

5 responses to “Films to See Before You Die: #31 The Royal Tenenbaums

  1. thanks for stopping by my blog and liking my post. i loved this film and was please to see it in your list as it is one that does not feature in many. guess I need to follow now to see what your top thirty will be

  2. Bought The Criterion Collector’s Edition Of This One The Day It Was Released! LOVE IT!!!

  3. Anderson at his best. No bones about it. The humor and sardonic weight balance out in a nice cocktail of family and repression.

  4. --Rick

    Great movie. I am thrilled to have stumbled on this blog. I use it as a movie reference when I need to fill space on a rainy day. Thanks.


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