Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Well, Lenise will probably be mad, but I went and saw Royal Tennenbaums this afternoon. I was in the area of the theater and had finished my work, and seeing a movie sounded more fun than going to the gym. Plus I've been feeling a little under the weather (though I guess it would be a LOT under the weather as it was 77 degrees outside, but I digress).

Royal Tennenbaums, the way I read it, was a film about what one might want their tombstone to say when one is dead. The film's eponymous main character, played quite well by Gene Hackman, is father to three genius children, but does not take an active interest in any of them until he becomes old and his situation forces him to make some changes. I don't want to give the plot away for those who have not seen the movie, so I'll try to speak generally. The interaction between both parents, the mother being played by Angelica Huston, the three children, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow, and the other intersecting characters is complex. While their relationships are dynamic through the film the director, Wes Anderson, chose to keep the characters in "costume" so to speak; the actors seem to be wearing the same clothing throughout the film. Like his earlier film, Rushmore, all of the scenes are framed, in this case by the device of book chapters. Alec Baldwin narrates the film in a way that gives a "story time" feeling.

Also like Rushmore there is a lot to look at. Just about every shot in the film has something interesting in the background. The overall mood comes out a bit darker than the earlier film though. While the Jonathan Schwartzman character in Rushmore had serious problems, it was somewhat easy for the audience to dismiss them as childish, simply because the character was a teenager. RT is something of a sequal, but the geniuses here are grown up, have all failed in their aspirations, and have serious, adult problems. But the film's focus is not on the children, but, as I mentioned earlier, on the father and how he wants to finish out his life.

I should say that Mr Hackman is somewhat successful in changing the direction of his life, so the ending, which involves his death, is still a hopeful one. I think I would need a video copy to do more detailed analysis. This was a very carefully made movie, and I'm only giving a very cursory review. I would recommend the movie, though it has its small moments of just about everything offensive (cursing, drug use, illicit sex), but is not gratuitous.

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