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Customer Review

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Emerging Great Director?, January 10, 2005
This review is from: The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection) (DVD)
I waited a long time after the release of this film to finally see it and I wish I'd looked at it sooner. Wes Anderson is an original artist in a world full of sequels and spinoffs of comic books and TV shows. That he attracts first-rate casts to help him realize a vision says plenty about Anderson's talent. Gene Hackman is at the top of any credible list of "World's Great Actors," and he gives what seems like his 100th superb performance here. As the central figure of the movie Hackman has a lot on his shoulders and he carries it off with style, timing, and heart. The other standouts in the cast are Danny Glover and Anjelica Huston, but really, the movie works best as an ensemble piece: these folks have great chemistry together on screen and they help Anderson (and cowriter Owen Wilson) realize his vision. In addition to being creative and funny, sometimes in an unexpected and silly way, the film is emotionally moving at several points, most of them involving Hackman. The montage with Gwyneth Paltrow growing up as a girl who likes her cigarettes and her men (and women!) is wonderful on its own, but Bill Murray's reaction to it takes the scene to the level of priceless. On the down side, the movie's visual style and structure often are contrived and the style draws too much attention to itself, but these are the flaws of someone learning to develop a vision. Anderson enjoys movies and moviemaking, and we enjoy his enthusiasm as he scores key scenes with well-known and not-so-well known music. My favorite: using Bob Dylan's instrumental from the Sam Peckinpah film "Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid" for the sequence in which cheeseburger-eating-stomach-cancer-faker Royal (Hackman) gets booted from the Tenenbaum residence. Some might say Anderson is self-indulgent; I think he enjoys popular culture and people and does a fine job of helping his audience share the enjoyment. Now, for the extras: outstanding. Major cast members get interviewed, there are some choice outtakes and a few surprises, and even the covers of books that the characters in this very text-oriented movie have written (for example, "Old Custer" by Owen Wilson's character Eli Cash, a bestselling author with elements of Tom Wolfe, Hunter Thompson, Richard Brautigan, and others thrown in.). In sum, Royal Tenenbaums documents the emergence of a potentially great director, Wes Anderson. His humor and perspective will not work for everyone, and certain elements of the film feel like inside jokes for those who were involved, but the movie will hold up on repeated viewings. It will also stand as one of the movies that shows Gene Hackman's skills to great effect, and that's saying a lot considering his track record. The Hack-Man puts on a clinic in acting that expresses the symbiosis of hilarity and tragedy that we know as real life.
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