The success of 1998’s brilliant Rushmore meant that writer-director Wes Anderson was effectively given carte blanche for his follow-up film. What he delivered was 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, an expertly crafted off-beat family drama with a stand-out cast.
Narrated by Alec Baldwin, The Royal Tenenbaums follows Gene Hackman’s Royal Tenenbaum, the patriarch of the Tenenbaums family who fakes a cancer diagnosis in an attempt to reconnect with his estranged grown-up family (Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson) and his ex-wife (Angelica Houston). Satellite characters in the film are played by Anderson stalwart Bill Murray, Danny Glover and (co-writer) Owen Wilson and all involved deliver an impressive selection of acting colours.
The Royal Tenenbaums is a quirky piece of cinema, and if you’re onboard with Anderson’s specific sense of stylised whimsey then you’ll appreciate this J.D Salinger-esqe tale. Every scene and performance works and the film contains the same richness that continues to run through Anderson’s work. Gene Hackman’s turn as the Tenenbaum family patriarch anchors everyone around him and his performance is funny, heartbreaking and well refined. Hackman has always been the perfect combination of movie star and character actor and he manages to make Royal a charismatic character, even though he is emotionally repugnant.
Budgeted at $21 million, The Royal Tenenbaums grossed $52.3 million at the US box office and more than $71.44 million worldwide following its release in 2001.