Viewed – 07 December 2016 Blu-ray
I made a promise to myself last year that I’d check out the other movies by director Wes Anderson. This followed my absolute love and admiration for his acclaimed Grand Budapest Hotel. I loved his visual style, his quirky, larger-than-life characters and well, just about everything that movie had to offer. So when I learnt that prestigious label ‘The Criterion Collection’ were releasing one of the director’s best known movies as part of their UK collection … I jumped at the chance.
This whimsical tale follows Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) who wants to reconnect with his dysfunctional family on hearing the news that he is dying. His family however are made up of a group of former child geniuses, now washed up has-beens and a feisty ex-wife on the brink of excepting a marriage proposal. Time isn’t on Royal’s side. Immediately it’s clear this has that same beautiful visual style, albeit less fantastical of Grand Budapest, with Anderson’s clear love of wide angle lenses and vibrant colours. Each and every frame of this is eye-catching, even for a movie set in modern day Manhattan. It is a light hearted, gently paced snapshot of a family and their various personalities and eccentricities. We get Ben Stiller’s over-protective father to his two young sons, Gwyneth Paltrow’s moping loner, and Luke Wilson’s troubled former Tennis star. However it’s Hackman that stands out and for an actor I hadn’t seen much of in a long time, I loved every time this ‘his own worst enemy’ character was on screen, complete with his bizarre Indian man servant / accomplice. We also get appearances from Owen Wilson (who co-wrote the movie) and Bill Murray.
I’d have preferred this to have had more humour, as it’s an ensemble piece ripe with comic potential, but instead we mostly get fascinating but overly miserable characters all trying to get on with one another but clearly failing. It’s charming and very watchable … but not traditionally entertaining. Whilst never boring, it plays its cards leisurely and proves an easy-going experience that still managed to make this viewer smile.
The Blu-ray as expected from Criterion is exceptional. The image quality has a lovely warm sheen to it with colours that pop and plenty of detail. For a fairly gentle-paced drama this doesn’t wow the surrounds audio-wise but has crystal clear dialogue and the various music cues work a treat (Wes Anderson’s tastes being suitably quirky). Extras are plentiful with a very welcome commentary and a nice collection of behind the scenes featurettes. In addition we also get booklets comprising of exclusive artwork and an essay on the movie. Welcome treatment to a likeable but in my opinion, not exactly essential movie.
(the movie) 3 /5
(the Blu-ray) 5 /5