Thursday, November 18, 2010

Welcome to 111 Arthur Avenue (or: A Discussion of The Royal Tenenbaums) by Jordyn of Ten Cent Notes

Some of you may know, my all time favorite movie is Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums. A few months back Jordyn watched it and we got to talking about how fabulous and wonderful and everything in between it is. I asked her if she wanted to share some of that love over on my blog! A girl has got to strive to live up to her blog name, if even just a little!  If you haven't seen The Royal Tenenbaums or Wes's other movies (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Life Aquatic, The Darjeeling Limited or Fantastic Mr. Fox), well you just really must! Thanks for stopping by Jordyn!

The Royal Tenenbaums is the type of weird, dark-comedy, messed-up-family, slow-moving film that, if you're going to enjoy it at all, you have to pay attention to. This movie demands something of its viewers and in return gives them a beautifully-crafted movie with heartbreaking characters and a dysfunction to spare. From the drug-addicted best friend, the absentee father, to the semi-incestuous love story, there's a lot weird in this movie.

The film opens on a family of child prodigies and then goes on to tell us how their lives have fallen apart since childhood. Business maverick Chas has become neurotic and overprotective of his two sons after the death of his wife. Adopted daughter and playwright Margot is incredibly secretive and depressed, spending entire days hiding in the bathroom, away from her psychologist husband. Former tennis champion Richie suffered a mental breakdown during his last match and is living on a boat in the middle of the ocean, in love with (and avoiding) Margot.

And then, in a twist of events that involves a fake fire drill, depression, and possibly stomach cancer, all three grown children, their mother, and their estranged father, end up together again. Living under the same roof.

In any other movie this would be a recipe for awkward situations, crude jokes, and over-the-top ridiculous family dinners. The Royal Tenenbaums, however, goes a different route. It's understated and quiet as each member of the family finds themselves dealing with issues that had long been ignored. What always strikes me with this movie and the story it tells is how adolescent the whole thing is, how much the journey of each sibling (as well as family friend Eli Cash), reminds me of the things most people deal with in teenage- or young-adulthood. Chas is dealing simultaneously with his anger at his dad as well as the heartbreak over losing his wife. Margot, having always been referred to as the "adopted daughter," and constantly reminded that she wasn't really part of the family, has an erratic and underdeveloped sense of identity. And of course, there's Richie.

RICHIE TENENBAUM IS ANGSTY. And that's putting it lightly. His romantic life resembles a twisted Norman Rockwell painting, his best friend has gone off the deep end, and he just has so many emotions - most of them sad and depressing.

Essentially, everyone in this movie is messed-up. Every. Single. Character. And yet, in an odd sort of way, that's part of why I love them so much. There's something beautiful in watching these people try to right their wrongs, solve their problems, and become the people they once were and the people they want to be again. Sure, The Royal Tenenbaums has the best soundtrack ever, ugly-pretty scenery, and the indie world's stamp of approval, but it also has a complicated and wonderful story full of redemption, acceptance, and love, as well as fascinating and sympathetic characters. It's full of angst, sadness, dysfunction, and missteps in every direction, but - if you can get past all of that - it's beyond wonderful.


  1. I thought this was a great movie! Yes this is a dysfunctional fasmily, very dysfunctional. But within that framework, they work and they are quite attached to each other. By the end they all get a little less dysfunctional and a little more aware of their dysfunction. But don't expect them to change!

    Great review!
    ~ Amy



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