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Fetchtv Movie Box: The Royal Tenenbaums

by Mark Hamlett

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must start this review by stating, for the record, that I am a huge fan of director Wes Anderson. Everything from his first film, Bottle Rocket, through to the stop-motion animated The Fantastic Mr Fox has really struck a chord with me. I wait with baited breath for any news regarding what he might be up to next.

Now, that’s not to say that Wes Anderson’s films are for everyone. If you were to judge The Royal Tenenbaums on its cast list alone – it stars Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Luke and Owen Wilson and Bill Murray in major roles – you may confuse The Royal Tenenbaums for a rowdy, over the top comedy, which it certainly is not.

It is the story of Royal Tenenbaum (played marvelously by Gene Hackman) and his quest to win back the heart of his ex-wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston) and his three talented children Chas (Stiller),  Richie (Luke Wilson) and the adopted, Margot (Gwyenth Paltrow). While Royal’s motives might be pure, his methods are not. To meet his goal he fakes a terminal illnesses and moves back into the family home.

While its premise seems farcical, the humour in The Royal Tenenbaums is subtle, almost bordering on black. Despite their prodigy and privileged upbringing, the Tenenbaum children are surrounded by tragedy and failure. That’s not to say it isn’t a funny film. If you like your comedies whimsical, there’s a lot to like here.

A highlight of the film is its cinematography. Anderson showed his love for the wide angle in his previous film Rushmore. Here, he takes it to town. Every shot is framed like a work of art, and the whole film feels like a moving painting.

I can imagine choosing my favourite Wes Anderson film would be much like choosing a favourite child. There’s so much to love in all of them. If pushed, I’d have to call The Royal Tenenbaums the winner, by a nose. If you’re looking for a comedy that’s a bit different from your usual fair, or want a good starting point into Anderson’s slowly growing body of work, I highly recommend watching it.

I give this film five Dalmatian mice out of five.

The Royal Tenebaums is available on Movie Box from next week.

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