The Royal Tenenbaums: Cinema´s most interesting and peculiar family

The aesthetic, characters, story, acting and soundtrack of one of the greatest movies ever made.



The Royal Tenenbaums


Before we get any further let´s take a look at the trailer.

The Royal Tenenbaums Trailer (2001)

At the beginning of the movie we are introduced to the characters by narrator Alec Baldwin. The background music for this opening scene is The Mutato Muzika Orchestra´s cover of “Hey Jude”. For example this is what we learn about Chas Tenenbaum, played by Ben Stiller.

Chas Tenenbaum

“Chas Tenenbaum had, since elementary school, taken most of his meals in his room, standing up at his desk with a cup of coffee, to save time. In the sixth grade, he went into business, breeding Dalmatian mice, which he sold to a pet shop in Little Tokyo. He started buying real estate in his early teens and seemed to have an almost preternatural understanding of international finance. He negotiated the purchase of his father’s summer house on Eagle’s Island.”

Then we meet Margot Tenembaum

Margot Tenenbaum


“Margot Tenenbaum was adopted at the age of two. Her father had always noted this when introducing her. This is my adopted daughter, Margot Tenenbaum.”

Interpreted by Gwyneth Paltrow, Margot is one of the most interesting, strong, unique and brilliant female characters in the movies. Ever. She plays an award winning playwright. She is mysterious and secretive and definitely my favorite character in the film. I personally think  it is going to be pretty tough for her to top her acting on that.

After Margot we meet Richie Tenenbaum, played by Luke Wilson.

Richie Tenenbaum

“Richie Tenenbaum had been a champion tennis player since the third grade. He turned pro at seventeen and won the U.S. Nationals three years in a row. He kept a studio in the corner of the ballroom but had failed to develop as a painter.  On weekends, Royal took him on outings around the city. These invitations were never extended to anyone else”.

and then there is Eli Cash. Played by Co-writer of the script along with Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson.

Eli Cash

While we are introduced to the characters, the soundtracks has gone through songs like String Quartet in F Major
(Second Movement) by Maurice Ravel, Sonata For Cello and Piano in F Minor by George Enescu, Lullabye
by Emitt Rhodes, “Police and Thieves” by The Clash and the first one we are going to feature in this post.

“Look at me” – John Lennon

Written by: Lennon, recorded: 26 September – 23 October 1970 and produced by Lennon, Yoko Ono and Phil Spector I nominate the song as the official existentialist anthem. “Who Am I”, “Who Are We”, “What Am I Supposed To Do”.. questions that haunt many of us. One of my favorites songs by Lennon and actually could be in my top 50 songs of all time. Do not ask me to narrow it down, even thinking of ever doing a top 50 will send me on a whirlwind of guilt and despair because there are just to many good songs to chose from…

I could go on and one simply on discussing the Royal Tenembaum´s script and also on the visual aspect of the film. but right now I want to focus on a particular scene and that is the moment when Richie Tenenbaum returns from his travels and he and Margot meet after several years without seeing each other. #spoileralert: they are in love. No, it is not incest, Margot is adopted. Anyway, Richie is waiting to be picked up in the Pier  outside the Royal Arctic Lines

Royal Artic Lines

I mean come on! that there is like a painting by Edward Hopper! And then Margot arrives. When they see each other this plays in the background. There is a great love story here but also one fantastic line said by Margot. “I think we’re just gonna to have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that, Richie.”

“These Days” – Nico

The song was written by Jackson Browne and Nico´s version is probably (besides Browne´s own) the most recognized versions and the most haunting one for sure, also it was the first version recorded. The song is about loss and regret. Nico included the song in her album Chelsea Girl.

“I’ve been out walking
I don’t do too much talking, these days –
These days … These days I seem to think a lot,
About the things that I forgot to do
And all the times I had the chance to”

The movie revolves around regret, failure, depression, anxiety, fear and has the soundtrack to go with it. However, although it deals with such subjects the movie is joyful, you after watching it you feel elated and cherry. I guess that happens whenever good art hits you.

One of the main achievements of the movie is to have in its casts actors such as Bill Murray, Angelica Houston and Danny Glover but I personally am in awe of the performance delivered by Gene Hackman. “Royal Tenenbaum”, the patriarch of the family and the reason they are together again after 22 years is hilarious. He is the perfect lawyer. The worse father and husband and not a great human being.

Royal: I’ve always been considered an asshole for about as long as I can remember. That’s just my style. But I’d really feel blue if I didn’t think you were going to forgive me.

Henry Sherman: I don’t think you’re an asshole, Royal. I just think you’re kind of a son of a bitch.

Royal: Well, I really appreciate that.”

but in the movie he develops a relationship with his two grand kids which is one of the best story-plots in the movie.

Royal Tenenbaum


This relationship includes funny stories furthered explored in the commentary of the movie by Wes Anderson. And we see it blossom within the frame of the following song.

Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon

There is also a great moment when we see Margot´s background check with a great song to go with it.

You can find more information on the film as well as the soundtrack but it is a film that has to be seen, heard and felt. Simply the names of the characters could inspire novels and I feel it is a movie that takes us to another place (like movies should) and this one is one of those few that either leaves us there or better yet, stays here with us.

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