The Royal Tenenbaums

March 24, 2010 - Gene Hackman plays patriarch to a family of prodigies in this quirky film from 2001. The cast features Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller and Luke Wilson. Owen Wilson, who co-wrote the script with director Wes Anderson, also has a role. Alec Baldwin narrates, and a special shout out to Seymour Cassel, who previously appeared in the under-appreciated TV show Under Suspicion.

Hackman has the title role here as Royal Tenenbaum, the eccentric and estranged head of an eccentric family of New Yorkers. Huston plays his wife, Etheline. They had two children, Chas (Stiller) and Richie (Luke Wilson), and adopted Margot (Paltrow). All three started out as prodigies and ended up as very confused. Royal didn’t help much as he left well before the children became adults.

Fast forward 20 years and Royal is trying to get back in the good graces of his family. He tells Etheline that he's dying but, really, he's broke and needs a place to stay. Despite the lies, Royal's reappearance helps the entire family rediscover some truths about their lives.

Overall review: *** The story of the Tenenbaums is told in chapters with Alec Baldwin serving as the omniscient narrator. His presence helps tie together what might otherwise be simply a series of disjointed episodes. The actors resist the urge to mock their characters. Paltrow is at her laconic best. Stiller, especially, shines in his role as a dad trapped between the feelings of grief over his wife's death and rage over the sins of his own father.