Thursday, July 15, 2010

Short Reviews: The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
A quirky and unforgettable comedy-drama about the three gifted Tenenbaum siblings whose once bright futures are tormented in their adolescent years by the absence of their father, Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) and a series of familial betrayals and disappointments. Years later as his troubled children return to their mother's home for direction, and when news travels that his ex-wife Ethelene (Anjelica Houston) plans to marry her business associate Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), Royal schemes up an unlikely reunion with his family, with both hilarious and heartbreaking consequences.
Chas (Ben Stiller) was once a business genius, who's impressive early earnings were stolen by his father, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a talented playwright, and Richie (Luke Wilson) was a tennis pro and promising artist. Following the death of his wife in a plane crash, Chas has become extremely overprotective of his two sons, Ari and Uzi, and fearing that their house is unsafe, moves in temporarily with his mother. Following a breakdown that prematurely ended his tennis career, Richie is traveling the world on a cruise ship, writing often to his good friend Eli Cash (Owen Wilson) and his sister. Margot has become a recluse who sits in her bathtub for hours a day watching television, mostly ignoring her Neurologist husband Raleigh St. Clare, which leads to his suspicions that she no longer loves him and is having an affair. The film is an adaptation of a fictional novel comprised of a series of vignettes or chapters outlining different periods of their lives, and it is referred to at different intervals throughout. There is such a complex attention to little detailed oddities which re-appear throughout the film. The matching jumpsuits worn by Chas and his sons, the dalmatian mice, and the unusual paintings in Eli's apartment are just some of the more memorable examples. As is the usual case in a Wes Anderson's film, the score featuring songs by The Rolling Stones, The Velvet Underground, Paul Simon and Nick Drake, and various compositions by Mark Mothersbaugh is simply wonderful.

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
I think this is my favorite film by Wes. True to his earlier films, this will not appeal to everyone, but maintains his quirky style that has led to his cult popularity and critical success. But the film feels so relaxed, for most of the time, that it is hard not to take some enjoyment and inspiration from this tale. Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson are perfectly cast as the trio of odd brothers, Peter, Jack and Francis, seeking a spiritual journey via train through India, in an attempt to re-unite with their estranged mother. A short film preceding the main feature, Hotel Chevalier, also directed by Wes Anderson and starring Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman provides the background to Jack's character as his ex-girlfriend shows up unexpectedly to his Paris hotel room and they spend the night together, before Jack meets his brother on the train through India in the feature.
Each of the brothers carries identical suitcases, seem to have the same addiction towards painkillers and cough medicine and individually possess odd traits (namely Brody's use of his father's sunglasses, Schwartzman's bare feet throughout the entire film, and Wilson's head full of bandages). The cinematography is incredible, the use of colour overwhelming and the score perfect. An intelligent, well written, satisfying film that deserves to be seen.

My Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

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