The Royal Tenenbaums


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.

Royal Tenenbaums

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 Margotlong 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-royal-tenenbaums-criterion

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.

Verdict:

(the movie)  3 /5

(the Blu-ray)  5 /5

The Grand Budapest Hotel


Viewed – 21 February 2015  online-rental

I didn’t have a clue what to expect from this.  I had heard that director Wes Anderson had his own unique style, that it starred one of my favourite actors, Ralph Fiennes and had been widely acclaimed and nominated for several Oscars.  So I thought … it has to be worth checking out.

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel

Narrated by an ageing hotel owner recanting his exploits as a bell boy taken under the wing of a charismatic and respected concierge, Mr Gustave (Fiennes) who following a wealthy woman’s mysterious death, comes into possession of a priceless painting and the disdain of her greedy family, headed by a snarling Adrian Brody.  So follows a very entertaining ‘caper’ comedy as we follow an unlikely duo through various adventures.

Wes Anderson has presented here a real spectacle of a movie… it’s shot with a style that echoes the avant-garde look of French cinema ala Jean-Pierre Jaunet (Amelie, Delicatessen) mixed with the flourishes of Baz Lurhman (Moulin Rouge) via the technical perfection of Stanley Kubrick to create one of the best looking movies I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s also for the most part presented in old-school 4:3 ratio, like that Oscar magnet The Artist and it works very well indeed.  There is more character and personality in any five minutes here than most movies have in their entire running time.  Also we get a wealth of famous faces all doing their bit in small but enjoyable roles from Edward Norton, Jeff Goldblum and Saoirse Ronan to Bill Murray.  Add to this a great villainous turn by Willem Defoe … and this has it all.  The story is fun and energetic and held together by a brilliant where-has-he-been Ralph Fiennes as the camp, poetic and lovable Mr Gustave – surely one of the most memorable characters in a while.

I had a great time with this, and it’s made me an instant fan of Wes Anderson – I love directors with such visionary appeal.  Essential viewing.

Verdict:  5 /5