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The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

by Corinne Rizzo

Imagine every screwball moment of your exploited genius childhood narrated as a prelude to your adulthood by Alec Baldwin. Then imagine your adulthood reaches its pinnacle way early and the only way you see fit to recover from the disappointment of an early peak is to move back home. At the same time as your bother and adopted sister.

This is the premise for Wes Anderson’s third essay into character structure and storytelling (also co-written by Owen Wilson)—and  so far his most successful.

As Royal Tenenbaum, the father of these three genius children, is evicted from the lofty conveniences of his hotel residence for payment delinquency, he receives news of a suitor after his wife, whom he’s been separated from for most of the children’s childhood and even adulthood.  When the news hits that Henry Sherman, Etheline Tenenbaum’s accountant, is interested in marrying her, Royal takes the opportunity to get back into her life by faking a terminal illness, scoring himself a place to live as well as an advantage to win over his the affection of his estranged children (who one by one have found themselves living with their mother, Etheline).

Our characters consist of Richie, played by Luke Wilson, a tennis professional by the age of thirteen by the nick name “Baumer”. Richie Tennenbaum was the apple of Royal’s eye which lead his brother Chas, a financial and technical prodigy, into a lifetime of sibling rivalry that keeps him at a distance. Our third character in the list of siblings is adopted sister Margot, an early successful play write in love with her brother (but not by blood) Richie.

Richie’s best friend, played by Owen Wilson, brings back the original chemistry that jumpstarted Anderson’s career, though the cast of The Royal Tenenbaums is held up by each actor in the film and lead by no one in particular. Even the narration of the film by Alec Baldwin is essential as well as the smallest parts played by Bill Murray (as Ralleigh St. Claire) are crucial to the twisted familial clusterfuck that is the Tenenbaum reunion.

But this isn’t just your run of the mill, everyone hates each other and fights type of dysfunction. The entire family rallies behind Royal, even Chas who is reluctant to do so. So no family member is left behind. Everyone loves each other, though there are some who love each other more and those with more of an even keel on the situation.

The drama in the film exists in places you would most expect it to live within your own family, but certainly not on the screen. Think about it for a minute: You and your siblings living MTV’s Real World style. Pretty much the best and worst of everything you’ve ever known with an ending that is as hopeful as the Real World is hopeless.

And Wes Anderson knows this drama and knows how to portray it. The themes and colors of previous films exist in The Royal Tenenbaums and the themes and colors of films to come are hinted in it. Seamlessly, Wes Anderson has created almost a centerpiece to his cannon of work, not as a pinnacle (by no means has he hit his peak) but as a confident stride.

Plus, I mean, the soundtrack! If you ever wanted to seem cool in front of anyone, just down load a few of Wes Anderson’s soundtracks and act like you know exactly what you’re listening to. Or better yet, get to know what you’re listening to and be extra cool.

 

Grade: A

 

Top Five Reasons To Watch The Royal Tenenbaums:

1) You learn what a javelina is! Unless you already know and if you do already know, skip to reason #2.

2) The kid who plays Richie Tenenbaum as a child is a riot.

3) Find Kumar Pallana.

4) Shameless smoking and drinking.

5) If you are unsure of where your style of dress is going, you could just adopt the style of one of the Tenenbaums and never think twice about it. Or even look to Henry Sherman for an example.

Rushmore (1998)

by Corinne Rizzo

In Rushmore, Wes Anderson’s second film, the director displays a highly stylized form of storytelling. In watching a film like Bottle Rocket, the viewer can learn that our writer/director (teaming with Owen Wilson), has a knack for developing characters, but from Bottle Rocket to Rushmore, Wes Anderson takes a not just a step toward a style that will carry him through the duration of his career, but some sort of anti-gravity moon leap.

Son of a barber, fifteen year old Max Fischer (played by Jason Schwartzman, attends Rushmore Academy where he is the founder of every extracurricular activity known to man.  And while Max reigns supreme at bringing groups together for everything from the Beekeeper’s Society to Calligraphy Club, his ability to keep up his GPA ends up standing in the way of the thing he loves most: Attending Rushmore Academy.

In perfect synchronicity with his academic probation, Max falls in love with Rosemary Cross, an elementary school teacher at Rushmore. Following their initial meeting, Max takes monumental measures to ensnare Ms. Cross’ affection by breaking ground on a new addition to the school in honor of her. An aquarium.

When his actions get him expelled from his cozy prep school and thrust into public high school, it takes Max a bit to acclimate. Rushmore is the story of Max’s acclimation to the outside world—and finding ways to combine the best of both worlds.

The film opens with a series of theatrical vignettes representing the characters of the film, followed by a similar series, displaying Max’s extracurricular accomplishments. These short vignettes that give the viewer an inside look to the makings of a character is Anderson’s first attempt at the aesthetic, which appears in each sub sequential film.

If you’ve ever seen a Wes Anderson film outside of Bottle Rocket and have been impressed with how cool his characters can seem, how much cooler they are set to a rocking soundtrack, and what slow motion can do for a character’s development, note that Wes Anderson’s ability to convey these things begins with Rushmore. It combines an the elegance of pomp and the grit of the human condition. Like a muddy ballet flat.

On the topic of elegance and grit, Bill Murray makes his debut in the Anderson cannon, paralleling Royal Tennenbaum’s relationship luck down to a long term hotel check in. Also in the film is Luke Wilson, playing a character at the butt of the most popular joke in the film.

With a perpetual fall in the air, the leaves constantly turning and changing, and the overcast skies, Rushmore is the foundation of Wes Anderson’s moody, intellectual, and character driven style.

Grade: B+

Top Five Reasons To Watch Rushmore:

1) You’re going to want to know if they really are O.R. scrubs.

2) It is the beginning of all stylistic choices made by Anderson in his films.

3) Kumar Pallana (keep an eye out!)

4) Can you just see Anderson’s gears churning with the marine biology thing?

4) The soundtrack.

Bottle Rocket (1996) and announcing Anti-Film School’s Wes Anderson Wednesdays!

Hey readers,

Anti-Film School is proud to announce that throughout February, every Wednesday will be Wes Anderson Wednesday, where Corinne posts a new review of one of his films. This may spill over into March but will that really bother you? IT’S WES ANDERSON! So enjoy all the quirkiness!

-Steve

by Corinne Rizzo

While the idea of two friends reuniting to embark on an escapade of robberies isn’t the most original concept for a film, Wes Anderson finds a way for those pieces to function. In his first wide release, Bottle Rocket, Anderson’s ability to pull functioning bits of an already existing reality and twist them to create an alternate, though awkwardly appealing reality, creates a solid foundation for his subsequent releases and promotes a ring of characters that an audience will grow with beyond the film.

The film opens with Luke Wilson’s character, Anthony, breaking out of what looks like a minimalistic hotel setting, while signaling to Dignan, played by Owen Wilson, out on the lawn who is equipped with binoculars and a signaling mirror. The audience learns quickly in this scene that Anthony is not in a motel, but in a clinical setting centered around what he calls “mental exhaustion, ” despite never working a day in his life. This very first scene also clues the audience in to Anthony’s character beyond his sensitivity to mental stimulation, but also to his fear of letting people down. Here we see Dignan outside looking like he is on some covert mission while Anthony explains to his doctor that his friend didn’t know that Anthony’s visit was voluntary, creating an elaborate plan to break him out of the nut house.

Meanwhile, Dignan is an over-stimulated and under-mature counterpart to the introspective and quiet Anthony. Upon breaking Anthony out of the clinic, Dignan exposes him to what he calls his “Seventy Five Year Plan,”on a bus trip that will initiate a sequence of robberies, starting with Anthony’s parent’s house for start up cash.

The second robbery is small time as well and genuinely excites Dignan when the manager of a bookstore they are holding up actually has money to hand over. The robbery is time consuming and awkward and while Dignan made the plans, he is excitable and sloppy. Anthony at this point becomes the collected and focused half of the duo.

When they hit the road with their neighbor, Bob (the only character in this equation with a vehicle), they stop at a nameless motel. While Dignan and Bob are at eachother’s throats about how to get away with their crimes, Anthony spots Ines, one of the motel staff members, falling very quickly but very passionately (and awkwardly) in love with her.

Cars are stolen, lips are busted and irrational behavior ensues. Camaraderie is the lesson.

Though they couldn’t appear any different or display more diverse personality traits, the chemistry between Owen and Luke Wilson in the film seems to be responsible for more than just the success of Bottle Rocket, but for the success of Wes Anderson’s career. It’s possible that Anderson recognized how two brothers could love and hate each other so much and utilized that chemistry to successfully portray these two characters.

Based on the performance given by the Wilsons, it is easy to understand why Anderson would choose these two for future films.  The actors chosen for the roles that Anderson creates are just as important to the film as the characters themselves and seems key in deciphering Anderson’s style.

In Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson creates a core of true characters in a film where plot might not be enough. While the film has its cynical and surprising turns, Bottle Rocket is a true display of excellence in character building. Each character is so carefully crafted and placed, no character seems irrelevant and if someone appears in the film, you can bet that Anderson will find a way for them to function somehow, in the grand scheme of things.

Grade B+

Top Five Reasons To Watch Bottle Rocket:

1)  Luke Wilson’s 90’s hair.

2)  Its like a test drive for the awkwardness you might experience in later Anderson films.

3)  Kumar Pallana…pretty much.

4)  We get to meet the third Wilson (Andrew Wilson plays Future Man).

5)  Bro-love before it was cool.