January 6, 2002 [The Royal Tenenbaums]
Royalty all around, then--and all of them with gifts. In the movie, everyone receives some sort of life--almost a new one, for most. Royal Tenenbaum himself--Gene Hackman in full-rascal mode--lies and lies and lies, and somehow this becomes a wonderful thing, all the way to his tombstone where with poetic truth we read he gave his life saving his family from the wreckage of a sinking battleship. And let's not dwell on the fact that it seems he wrecked the ship, maybe ran it aground onto a sandbar where it tilted perilously and toppled on its side--the crew's fall broken only by their own varying ability to drop-n-roll.
And while they're models of quirkiness--of a kind the writer-director, Wes Anderson, seems on the verge of perfecting--the Tenenbaums never flatten out, never caricature themselves. Anderson is smart in his casting, and wise enough to situate them in the frame in a painterly manner--or at least posed, still enough for us to get a good look (except for Royal, who bounces around too much, even after he's thrown out on his ear).