The Royal Tenenbaums: Family drama has never been so quirky

Intro by Maria

Sometimes you see a movie in the theater, and you’re just like—WOW.  Yeah, you can only describe it with a simple word because you’re a twenty-one-year-old girl. Well, that’s what happened to me when I saw the movie The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001. This movie was both of your fearless podcast hosts’ first introduction to the director Wes Anderson. Oh my, say that five times fast. Fearless podcast hosts, fearless podcast hosts. Well, anyway, The Royal Tenenbaums is a great introduction to Wes Anderson because its design is so classically Anderson: meticulous set design and shot framing, themes of family dysfunction, precocious children, quirky dialogue and characters—this movie has all of this.

The movie centers on Royal, played by Gene Hackman, and his efforts to connect with his family. He spends most of the movie failing at this, much like all the Tenenbaum children have “failed” at being happy. Royal, though, is much more of an ass than his children are. He fakes having stomach cancer to get some sympathy from the family and to spend time with them, but of course he is eventually found out, and the family wants him out of their lives. It’s not until his son Richie attempts suicide that Royal realizes he doesn’t have to pretend be something he’s not to love his family—he just has to love them.

Said aloud like this, the plot may seem trite. But it’s not, and this is due to Anderson’s character development. We come to know so much about this family of geniuses in many ways—from Alec Baldwin’s narration, which gives the film a J.D. Salinger-like tone, to how the family interacts with each other. Chas obsesses about the thought that he might lose his children after his wife dies in an airplane crash. Richie is in love with his adopted sister—so much so that he throws away his career as a professional tennis player. Margot is plagued by the way her father treats her, as he excludes her at almost every turn because she’s adopted. It’s not until these characters can be vulnerable and honest with each other that they can move forward with their lives and be content.

Now I know what you’re thinking: Of course us 90s emo kids just have to love The Royal Tenenbaums. But you have to admit—for a podcast that deals with movies, maladies, and mental health, this movie sure delivers. So put on your best tracksuit, arrange for your usual escort by way of the green line bus, and light up your old, stale cigarettes to prepare for the next episode of the Peculiar Picture Show podcast.

Music in this episode includes:

“Rainy Sun” by The Owl – Music by The Owl from Fugue
“New Wave” by El Kirpitch –  Music by El Kirpitch from Fugue
“Inside of Me” by Drift Behind – Music by Drift Behind from Fugue
“Au Cinema” by Syvat Ilin – Music by Svyat Ilin from Fugue


M: Nothing is trivial, especially when you have depression. … There have been times when I was in my worst places when the smallest, tiniest thing would spiral into this big emotional turmoil I couldn’t get out from.

B: After the angst of the 90s, after the complete rejection of everything in the 90s, what’s left for the decade after is a ton of loneliness. Even The Dark Knight, which came out in 2008, was about loneliness on some level.

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