The Royal Tenenbaums
The Anderson-Wilson team earned cult status with their highbrow dark comedies Bottle Rocket and Rushmore. Their foray into mainstream Hollywood will certainly win them a wider following but will not alienate fans of their idiosyncratic sense of humor.
The Tenenbaum children were once a group of precocious high achievers—Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was an award-winning playwright, Richie (Luke Wilson) was once a tennis champion, and Chas (Ben Stiller) hit it big in the financial markets—but have fallen apart as adults. The dysfunctional family reunites when the patriarch, Royal (Gene Hackman), who disappeared after he and his wife (Anjelica Huston) separated, tells them he's dying of stomach cancer. (He's not; it's a ploy to get everyone together.) Self-absorbed, drug-addled novelist Eli Cash (Owen Wilson), who long ago inserted himself into the tapestry of the family, crashes yet another family event, satisfying his need for attention. Plenty of dirty laundry is aired, as failed relationships and suppressed anger simmer to the boiling point.
The Tenenbaums' intellectual eccentricities and Manhattan sensibilities recall Salinger's Glass family and are worthy of The New Yorker fiction. Anderson and Wilson's wry dialogue, fully realized characters, and wistful soundtrack combine to create an emotional tour de force.