The Royal Tenenbaums is a film about family relationships including divorce. It is one of Wes Anderson's finest films featuring twisted, kinky, cheated on and needy people. A neurotic family with plenty of dysfunction to make us feel better about our own lives.
Why would I choose to highlight this film? Simple. It's a great example of taking situations related to divorce and making them funny...and...if the Tenenbaums can get through their outrageous problems so can we. What can we learn from the Tenenbaums? Families are crazy and it's always good to know other people have worse problems than our own, even if they're fictional.
The family has seen better times and not undue to the fact that Royal Tenebaum left them high and dry years ago. He is back though and wreaking even more havoc on this already dysfunctional family.
In the center of it all is Etheline Tenenbaum, the mother played beautifully by Angelica Huston. She is reluctantly holding it all together when family members return home for her support including Royal, her estranged husband. He returns under a ruse of illness and that's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Royal Tenenbaum.
The film tells a story of tragedy and comedy in equal measure using minimal words.
For example, the deadpan dialogue between Margot (Royal and Ethelene's adopted daughter) and her much older husband, Raleigh who hopes to convince her to return to their marital home...
Raleigh: "How long do you intend to stay here?"
Margot: "I don't know."
Raleigh: "Are you ever coming home?"
Margot: "Maybe not."
Raleigh: "You're joking."
Raleigh: "Well, I want to die."
In a scene later in the film, Raleigh confronts Margot about her numerous affairs. Again, the terse and minimal dialogue creates irony and humor in its simplicity. If only our real life conversations could be as succinct and emotionless...
Raleigh: "You've made a cuckold of me."
Margot: "I know."
Raleigh: "Many times over."
Margot: "I'm sorry."
FYI, a Cuckold is a male Cuckoo bird. The female Cuckoo bird is known to take several mates and nest in multiple places. For some reason men like to use this term if their wife is suspected of (or is) cheating. Women don't name their philandering husbands after a species of the wild. They simply call him a 'cheat.' Maybe we should come up with a term equally endearing?
Here's a look at Etheline and Royal's relationship. Many years after she asked him for a divorce and he still hasn't signed the papers...refusing to accept the finality of his divorce.
The film comes to a close with this dialogue between Royal and Etheline...
Royal: "I love you Ethel."
Etheline: "Are we divorced?"
Royal: "Yes, we just have to file the papers. Now I know what you see in him. He's everything I'm not. "
----"I wish you both the best."
The film is wacky, kinky, kooky and makes us realize we need not take our problems too seriously...and bonus...it is narrated by Alec Baldwin with perfect irony. Finding humor in our difficulties eases the pain and no one does that better than Wes Anderson.
Do you have a favorite divorce movie?