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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Thursday, November 27, 2014 - Edition No 925 

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ROYAL TENENBAUMS, THE

SYNOPSIS:
Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) and his wife Etheline (Angelica Huston) have three children who were gifted little prodigies. Chas (Ben Stiller) was a finance wizz, adopted daughter Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) a successful playwright and Richie (Luke Wilson) a champion tennis player. Royal was always a failure and when he and Etheline separated, the children's success as well as the success of their childhood friend Elijah 'Eli' Cash (Owen Wilson) took a downhill slide. Royal was blamed. Twenty years later, Etheline is being courted by her accountant Henry Sherman (Danny Glover). Royal is broke with nowhere to live and suddenly realises he doesn't know his family. He wonders whether telling them he is dying will get the desired result.

Review by Louise Keller:
The Royal Tenenbaums is a winning hand indeed. This highly original script is unique in that the characters do not venture on a trip of rags to riches, but have all made their marks and have now sunk to the depths of despair. A beguiling mix of comedy and poignancy, The Royal Tenenbaums is a total delight. Cry a little, laugh a lot: Wes Anderson has found the perfect balance between the ridiculous and the tragic. While the laughs come at seemingly inappropriate moments, there is nothing distasteful about these comedic pressure points. They simply push our buttons and accentuate our senses. The story unfolds like a fairy tale in a story-book. The set up is lip-smacking good; the execution is absolutely delicious. Wonderful characterisations and performances by a superb cast are treats in themselves. It's a wonderful role for Gene Hackman, who comes to life in a crisp, dry delivery. Hackman's performance is truly memorable and never for one moment do we leave his reality. He is keen to nurture a relationship with his estranged children, but he can't help himself from being dishonest, tactless, rude and insensitive. And what a dysfunctional family this is. Much of the humour is visual and cleverly conceived. Take Ben Stiller as Chas, the widower who is so security conscious that he puts his two sons through fire drills on a regular basis. They all wear red track suits, all the time. Then there's Luke Wilson's (Owen's brother) who sets up camp in a tent in his house, and poor little rich girl Margot, who spends six hours a day in the bathroom hiding her smoking habit (she wears designer mink the rest of the time). I was especially entertained by Owen Wilson's Eli, the novelist who really wanted to be a Tenenbaum and Angelica Huston is simply wonderful as Etheline. Some of the most memorable scenes are those between Huston and Hackman. Much of the logic is illogical and the use of music is highly imaginative and ranges from the Beatles to harp with percussion. Dressed up as a crazy comedy, but is essentially a quirky tragedy, The Royal Tenenbaums is irresistible.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I went along expecting a funny if fuzzy comedy, and perhaps thatís why I was disappointed. It starts out funny alright, in a mannered sort of way, with captions on scenes that suggest an offbeat humorist at work, but half way through, the filmís darker underbelly pops out and takes over. But it doesnít go all the way as a comedy turned tragedy, as it might have been. And it is not the change in genre to a dark family drama wryly told with satirical flourish that is problematic; it is the divergent performance styles that grate. The devices used to make us laugh canít be undone when the film tries to be increasingly earnest. We have a buffoon for a Royal, for example, and caricatures all around, but as the film progresses, we find some of the characters are getting into serious dramatic material. And then againÖ. Itís as if the writer and the director could never quite make up their minds whether to go all out for comedy or to try and give the subject gravity by injecting scenes that are more serious. Instead of giving the film light and shade, the device makes it lumpy and uneven, vaguely unsettling and only fitfully approachable. The early scenes are the most entertaining, but the later scenes are laboured. Performances are what the director ordered, but they donít generate much emotion or care. For all its faults, the film is enjoyable on a superficial level for its ridiculous aspects, and for its great flair with the soundtrack Ė both original score and sourced music. And itís good to see Hackman back in a comedic role for a change.



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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 1

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS (MA)
(US)

CAST: Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Angelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson. Narrated by Alec Baldwin

PRODUCER: Barry Mendel, Scott Rudin

DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson

SCRIPT: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Robert Yeoman

EDITOR: Dylan Tichenor A.C.E.

MUSIC: Mark Mothersbaugh

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Wasco

RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista International

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 14, 2002

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE

VIDEO RELEASE: October 23, 2002







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