Tonight’s movie: The Royal Tenenbaums

On a last minute spur, I went to see this strange film this afternoon. Must be a week for it, after seeing Vanilla Sky as well. Wes Anderson’s script and direction (co-star Owen Wilson also co-wrote the script) are mostly focused on the odd members of the Tenenbaum family and those in close orbit rather than on a sophisticated plot. The family has a conman loser for a dad (Gene Hackman, who must never get tired), an adopted daughter played by Gwyneth Paltrow (who IMHO gets far too many good roles) who wears racoon-like eyeliner and is married to an obvious father figure, one son–Ben Stiller, who never really gets to set loose the emotions–who has never forgiven dad for some childhood slights and is in mourning for his six months’ dead wife (but dresses himself and his two young sons in identical adidas track suits in nearly every scene), another son, Wilson who cratered a top ranked pro tennis career when his adopted sister married another, and a mother who is more or less a blank slate. Owen’s brother Luke plays a neighbor who’s a childhood friend, Gwyneth’s lover, and latent homosexual. Bill Murray and Danny Glover, who both look extremely old, fart around the edges mainly.

This Reuters article claims that director Anderson has a “vision” of filmmaking so that his films don’t look like other movies. I wouldn’t dream of disagreeing with that. A good example is that the clothing worn, the hairstyles, the cars (especially the taxi cabs seen throughout), the furniture, the city streets, all look like the 1970s, yet the film is actually set in the present day. Alec Baldwin provides odd narration, with the pretense of him reading out loud from a book with the same name as the movie; we see at the beginning of each chapter a page from the book with the first couple of lines which Baldwin reads and then the visual fades into the actors. The script throws all these people and elements into a farcical blender, so be warned because this ain’t mainstream Hollywood fare!

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