MOVIECUBE — SEPTEMBER 2013 — ORIGINAL
Royal Tenenbaum has not been a loyal husband, and his wife Etheline is kicking him out of the house. The care of their three children—Chas, Margot and Richie—falls into the hands of Etheline and she puts their education as her highest priority. All three turn out to be exceptional in their own fields—Chas is a genius in international finance and has become quite an established businessman since as early as the sixth grade; Margot, adopted into the Tenenbaum family at age 2, is a gifted playwright and received a $50,000 grant when she was in the ninth grade; Richie has been a tennis player since the third grade and turned pro at 17, he is also rather artistic and often paints, though only limited to one subject matter—his sister Margot.
Twenty-two years later, the Tenenbaum siblings are scattered and each is in a slump. Meanwhile, Etheline’s long time accountant Henry Sherman proposes to her. Royal hears about this from Pagoda, a servant in the Tenenbaums’ residence, and having just kicked out of the hotel which he has been staying in for 22 years for failing to make his payment, he decides to return to the old house and try to win back not only his wife, but also the whole family.
I remember watching this film when I was in high school and despite not really getting it, found it enjoyable nonetheless. Weird, but enjoyable. A few years later I watched The Darjeeling Limited and was instantly converted into a Wes Anderson worshipper, and currently still am. Re-watching this film after so many years, I found it even more enjoyable than ever. Like other Anderson films, you have a bunch of oddballs as characters, non sequiturs delivered in a deadpan manner, rapid camera movements, overhead shots, and gorgeous props, details and colors resulting in a very appealing visual treat.
This film reminds me a lot of The Darjeeling Limited as both explore the relationship of family members that barely function as a family, with each member battling their own demons. Chas’s wife has recently died in a plane crash, leaving Chas overly paranoid about the safety of their sons. He does fire drills in his house in the middle of the night, forcing his curly headed sons to go down the fire escape, half asleep in their pajamas. Margot is married to Raleigh St. Clair, a writer and neurologist, and barely talks to him. Extremely secretive, nobody knows that she has been a smoker since she was 12. Richie has retired as a professional tennis player and has been traveling on a ship for a year and has secretly been harboring love for Margot.
Anderson’s films often have a ‘period’ look to them and this film is one of the best displays of this particular trait. Even the brand of cigarettes that Margot smokes were actually discontinued in the 70’s, fitting the characters even more to the 70’s era, which Anderson wants to highlight to make the Tenenbaums look like they are trapped in the time of their heyday, detached from the present (the film is set in the present, with gravestones dating at 2001). However, I find that you can’t really pin-point a period in which Anderson’s films are set, but rather you have a feeling that they are all living in the same quirky, colorful realm that is quintessential Anderson.
This month’s theme for MovieCube is fashion, and fashion almost always plays a part in Wes Anderson’s films (himself possessing quite a peculiar style), more so in this film. Take a look at Margot for example. She wears Lacoste tennis dresses, reminding us of her close relationship with her tennis-playing brother Richie and how his love for her is probably reciprocated. On top of those mini dresses is a bulky mink fur coat, custom made for Gwyneth Paltrow by Fendi. And again, like Richie, Margot also wears dark loafers. Oh, and don’t forget her Birkin bag (and also Etheline’s Kelly bag). As pointed by my buddy Karamel Kinema, apparently Elle Ukraine is doing a spread inspired by Margot and Richie for their September issue this year.
You can check out the pictures here.
There’s a scene in the film where 11 year-old Margot holds a play and her father Royal comments about how it doesn’t seem believable and when asked by Chas if the characters are well-developed he goes on to say “What characters? This is a bunch of little kids dressed up in animal costumes,” And in Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, a bunch of kids dress up in animal costumes once again. A lot of people find Wes Anderson’s films boring or uninspired, with his unchanging style throughout the years, and with seemingly prioritizing style over substance. But I personally never find this to be a weakness. On the contrary, Anderson’s signature style is what makes his works special. Even the recurring actors add more to the fun of watching his films. And yes the characters are odd, but that doesn’t mean they are all hollow.
In 2014, Anderson will release his eighth feature film The Grand Budapest Hotel and it has got a bunch of familiar Anderson alumni, with interesting new additions such as Saoirse Ronan, Ralph Fiennes and Jude Law, among others. This might be his most star-studded feature to date and it will mark the first time that he writes the screenplay by himself. No Roman Coppola, no Owen Wilson, no Noah Baumbach. Definitely looking forward to it.