Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Royal Tenebaums; or How Can Gwyneth Paltrow Be So Unaware of Our Complicated Relationship?

The Royal Tenenbaums was my favorite film of 2001, and may have been my very favorite of the whole decade. It's one of those films I love so completely and so indiscriminately, I've been having a lot of trouble writing about it. I feel a bit as if I'm just going wind up quoting my J.D. Salinger blog post, as lots of what I had to say about the Tenenbaums also applies to the Glass family (who inspired them). So I think I'll just make a list of thoughts as coming up with anything coherent is clearly an impossibility.

1. The film inhabits a New York City that seems both fictional and achingly recognizable. I think it takes place in the pretend NYC that shows up frequently in my dreams.

2. The characters are based more on people out of books than real people and therefore feel more realistic to me because I've spent more time with books than with actual people.

3. Margot Tenenbaum is a reclusive playwright with few life skills, is extremely secretive and is sad much of the time. Recently, I've been sort of unprecedentedly happy, but for most of my life this would have been a fairly good description of me.

4. That Fendi mink is gorgeous. I don't care how wrong or bad - I totally want it. Sue me.

5. The soundtrack is perfect.

6. The Tenenbaum children have all kinds of weird talents and obsessions and were strangely brilliant when children, but have a great deal of trouble negotiating the world as adults. Traits that (intentionally) mirror Salinger's Glass family and also I think to an extent, my own.

7. I love that everyone has a uniform that they wear throughout the film.

8. The house on 144th street that Wes Anderson chose to play the Tenenbaum house is just a few blocks away from the gigantic, sprawling apartment my mother grew up in on Riverside Drive.

9. I have a weirdly conflicted relationship with Gwyneth Paltrow. I think she has the slight misfortune of being a beautiful character actress. She's great in this movie and also really terrific in Running With Scissors. On the other hand, in real life, she's clearly insufferable. I know a couple of people who knew her when she was at Spence and they just hated her (to be fair, I also know one girl who liked her very much). And the whole Goop thing is an unbelievable embarrassment. And don't even start me on the Batali show.

10. Gene Hackman is the greatest American actor of the past 40 years. He's great here.

11. The paintings in Owen Wilson's apartment.

12. I know everyone hates narration. I love it. And I love nothing more than finding out what happens to everyone after the story ends the way Dickens sometimes used to tell us. They do that here and it's lovely, and Alec Baldwin is perfect because he doesn't add any annoying false sentiment as often happens.

13. The zebra wallpaper in Margot's room.

14. Several years ago my mother wrote a letter to Wes Anderson via the New York Times. He replied with a letter hand written on hotel stationary.

15. The whole Chas story is just so lovely. It's the only film in which I've been able to stand Ben Stiller.

16. The movie is completely contrived in every way possible except that it feels emotionally honest.

17. The scenes with Royal having unsafe adventures with Uzi and Ari are so hilarious and fun (set to "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard")

18. An old boyfriend of mine worked on some of the graphics.

19. The reveal of Margot's secret life is just priceless.

20. Dalmatian mice.

This is the second entry in my favorite films of the Aughts series.

1 comment:

Ken said...

I absolutely love the film, also. I listen to the soundtrack album constantly.
Pagoda is the best!