I first watched “The Royal Tenenbaums” when I was around eight years old, and I only realized this upon watching it again at 16. The story follows a well-established family and their early triumphs, which quickly evolved into failures that caused problems for each member, forcing them to make changes in their lives. When their father who left them comes back to make a connection because his wife was seeing another man, they are ironically brought back together and learn valuable lessons about how to carry on with their lives.
On my more recent viewing, something about the whole film felt extremely nostalgic, and it’s not just because I had unknowingly watched it already. Anderson really builds the sense of family, however dysfunctional, and after the opening sequence, it feels as if they are an extension of your own. When the beginning notes of “Hey Jude” by The Beatles plays, it’s already too late, you have been sucked in.
Each family member receives their own introduction expressing their individual eccentricities, and the feeling of the film is really constructed from here. The costume design really accentuates the personality of each character aside from being just pleasant and amusing to look at. One of the characters, Chaz, played by Ben Stiller, and his entire family are dressed in bright red tracksuits to emphasize their fit lifestyle and readiness for action. These tracksuits are an iconic part of the film and so are many other aspects of the costume design such as Richie’s sunglasses and headband.
Everything is presented with a personalized color and the character’s outfits are all pretty good in bringing idiosyncratic flair to the story. The cinematography is exceptional at matching the feelings and relationships between characters, with shots to isolate or connect members of the family as they slowly strengthen their bonds with each other. A great example is when Owen Wilson’s character Eli breaks things off with Gwyneth Paltrow’s character Margot.
The performances in this film were absolutely amazing, and the cast really brought these characters to life. Gwyneth Paltrow does an amazing job with Margot, encapsulating an energy that telegraphs how sick of her life she is. This perfectly portrays someone who is dulling out until they find what they have been looking for the whole time. Part of the great character arcs was making them believable.
This movie is incredibly comforting, and it’s really no surprise as even the poster shot with the entire family displaying their individual quirks is inviting. Each and every member of the family has their own issues and arcs they embody that seems fitting and distinct from one another. In the end, the act of fulfilling their arcs brings them closer, and that is the true meaning of family — coming together during hardships and getting through things with the support of one another. I have really grown to love this movie and Anderson’s style in general.