“The Royal Tenenbaums” is a 2001 film by writer/director Wes Anderson. One of Mr. Anderson’s early efforts, the film is clearly inspired by back issues of The New Yorker magazine with a streak of arch whimsy running through it. “The Royal Tenenbaums” is coming to Movies at the Library on Tuesday, May 24 and is the third film in this spring series to be included in the anthology “1001 Movies You Must see Before You Die.”
“The Royal Tenenbaums” was Mr. Anderson’s third film after “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore.” Later, he did the charming “Moonrise Kingdom” and, most recently, the brilliant “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” His has been a fascinating career to follow. The stylistic Tenebaums is decorated with Edward Gorey-like drawings and narrated by a deadpan Alec Baldwin. But the oddball fantasy truly hangs on the mannered performances of a stellar cast.
Leading the pack is the nominal patriarch of the clan played by Gene Hackman. Royal Tenenbaum is a disbarred lawyer long estranged from his wife, Anjelica Huston. His children are Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson, all child prodigies who have moved back in with their mother in a five-story New York City house which includes a turret sporting the family banner. Royal, having fallen on hard times, re-enters their lives and attempts to win back their affections.
Aside from the performers, the star of the show is the script. Anderson and his co-author, Owen Wilson, were nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar for the film. Owen Wilson appears in the film, but not as a Tenenbaum — that role that went to his brother. This gives an indication of how elliptical the movie is. Danny Glover is also in the cast, as is Bill Murray, who has become a Wes Anderson “regular.”
Anderson doesn’t write for depth. His stories are a bit like rocks skimming a calm water’s surface. This family saga is far too funny to be wholly tragic and far too glib to be profound. There are numerous visual gags and nifty, oblique quips. It is a far from perfect venture but Anderson does come up with a fresh take on the dysfunctional-family-as-comedy genre.
Come to the library for the 7 p.m. showing. You will find bottled water and “treats,” including one great movie.