The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

by Afra Nariman

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Director: Wes Anderson

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


As dark as it is hopeful; Wes’ best, and his most human film, The Royal Tenenbaums strikes the perfect balance between style and emotional personality, sorrow and comedy, feeling and distance. The emotion at the root of the film is grounded in both individual crisis and a larger, communal nostalgia. 

The Royal Tenenbaums captures the perpetual loneliness that seeps into adulthood, despite the illusion of family or community, or of any early-life signs of a fulfilling future. In other words, the film illustrates the human condition — that we all are never finished feeling afraid, lost, or searching. The three siblings in the film all originally react to failure or their lack of life fulfillment from a place of fear; this expressed through their individual paranoia, apathy, or simply by giving up. 

By the film’s bittersweet end, the siblings’ circumstances never really change or drastically improve, but they do learn to accept the imperfection and impermanence of life and begin to understand the fleeting nature of whatever abstract notion of happiness they once believed to exist — and this helps them grow, communicate, and find peace. In the end, Chas still loses yet another member of his family (Buckley, the dog), Richie and Margot are still trying to find a way to be with each other (this is left relatively open-ended, as it was all film, but now there is hope that no matter what the outcome will be, they will be okay with it) — and yet, in route to this realization, Richie attempts suicide, Margot ends her hapless marriage, and her many secret lives bleed out for all to know — but through real communication at last, with one another and with their family generally, all three are able to move forward knowing that despite the difficulties their lives have inherently been constructed with, and will continue to be shaped by, they will persist in surviving still, and will be there for each other every step of the long, winding way.


Rating: 5 out of 5.

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