I first saw The Royal Tenenbaums when it hit cinema screens in 2001.
And I hated it.
I rarely leave the multiplex angry at a film, but The Royal Tenenbaums disappointed me on visceral level.
Which was grossly unfair of me, because The Royal Tenenbaums is generally considered a pretty good film. And I can now objectively see that it is. Indeed I actually quite enjoyed it the last time I watched it. Which was very recently in preparation for writing this post.
But back in 2001 I was perhaps a tad less discerning in my cinematic tastes. I generally liked movies with lots of action and explosions, or films that made me laugh. Like Zoolander. That made me laugh. And it had Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in it. As does The Royal Tenenbaums. So I went in to the screening expecting something a bit like Zoolander. But The Royal Tenenbaums is not like Zoolander. And it did not make me laugh.
It still doesn’t.
Not out loud anyway.
But these days I can appreciate that a film might not have me snorting uncontrollably in my oversized popcorn but can still be funny.
And The Royal Tenenbaums is funny. And poignant. And clever. And whimsical. And thought-provoking. And entirely worthy of all the acclaim it has received over the years.
It also has an amazing cast. There are too many stellar names to list although the stand-out performer is probably Gene Hackman, who followed up the atrocious Behind Enemy Lines with this, and more than redeemed his performance in that monstrosity.
Score for Christmasishness
I’m glad I revisited this movie, because my younger self woefully misjudged it. But I did only watch it because, in my research for Christmas(ish) films, which largely consists of looking at internet lists, similar to this, written by other people with more talent than me – this one appeared quite often. But there is very little about it that screams Christmas. It is quite wintery throughout, but the only scene which indicates that it might be Christmas is when Royal Tenenbaum (Hackman) and his estranged daughter Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) meet in an ice cream parlour. There is Christmas music playing in the background and if you squint you can make out some tinsel hanging on the walls.
And that’s it.
It’s hard to work out the exact time span of the movie, but, assuming that the aforementioned scene is indicative of it being Christmas time, it is reasonable to extrapolate that a large proportion of the other events in the movie also take place at Christmas.
But it’s never really obvious that it’s Christmas during the timeline of the movie.
If indeed it ever is.