Saturday, 12 December 2009

Everyone's Against Me.

I don't know what my feelings are towards Wes Anderson. I like the idea of him and his films more, I think, than I necessarily like his films. I remember enjoying The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou more than I thought I would, but I didn't think I'd really like it going in (though, when you use a Sigur Rós track over your climactic scene, I really don't think you can go wrong...) I like his casting, I like his ideas, but... it all seems a little too navel-gazing.

The Royal Tenenbaums is a film I've been putting off seeing (due to a half-hearted Gwyneth Paltrow boycott since the Elizabeth fiasco), but one that people kept telling me I'd love, and that I should just get over it, and besides, I'd like Gwyneth in this more than most other films. What I wasn't expecting was for her to be pretty much my favourite part of the film (with the exception of Anjelica Huston, who I want to marry - add her to the list.)

Start at the beginning. The Royal Tenenbaums is about the Tenenbaum family: patriarch Royal (Gene Hackman); matriarch Ethel (Huston); children Chas (Ben Stiller), Margot (Paltrow) and Richie (Luke Wilson); and a family friend Eli (Owen Wilson.) Throw in Ethel's new love interest Henry (Danny Glover) and Margot's husband Raleigh (Bill Murray), and you've got a pretty freaking decent cast.

The family is horrendously over-achieving in their early years, but now horribly fragmented due feuds, separation and lawsuits. Richie is a pro tennis player who freaks out during a big match; Margot is a chronically depressed pathological secret-keeper; Chas has massive issues with his father relating to his upbringing. Royal has had very little contact with his family since he and Ethel split up, and Ethel herself seems to be very content to ignore the fact that anything is wrong, or at the very least doesn't realise the gravity of the situation.

The story plays on in many different ways from there. I'm not going to try and go into it, because I think it would spoil the film a little, and there are just so many narrative strands, and I don't know if I have the energy. These many strands do, however, weave themselves together into a strong story (implausible superficially, but somehow it all works.) The dialogue is witty, the performances are solid from all (with Hackman, Huston and Paltrow being highlights), and there really aren't too many negative points, I don't think. My issue primarily lies in the fact that, while it's an impressive list of names, there are so many actors in here that I just don't really like. I'm not a huge fan of Owen Wilson, Luke I can take or leave, Murray, despite his obvious global love and respect, always seems to be Bill Murray to me, and Ben Stiller, same deal. These are personal issues that I should be able to look past, but I think it's just too many all together for me to do that. The majority of them strike me as always insincere, and I have trouble looking past them and into the depth of their performances. I do like to think that if their performances did, in fact, have the depth, it would shine through (like Paltrow's), but they didn't here.

It's admirable, I suppose, but I wouldn't voluntarily watch it again. Sure, I wouldn't turn it off on a lazy day with my DVDs in another house, or if someone else really wanted to see it, and I also wouldn't say to people it was a bad film. It's a personal thing.

That being said, because I can't really fault it technically, I'm going to run with 2.5 stars for it.

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