The Royal Tenenbaums

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The Royal Tenenbaums
The Tenenbaums.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by
Written by
Music by Mark Mothersbaugh
Cinematography Robert Yeoman
Edited by Dylan Tichenor
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release date
Running time
109 minutes [3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$21 million [4]
Box office$71.4 million [4]

The Royal Tenenbaums is a 2001 American comedy-drama film directed by Wes Anderson and co-written with Owen Wilson. The film stars Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, and Owen Wilson. Ostensibly based on a non-existent novel, and told with a narrative influenced by the literature of J.D. Salinger, the story follows the lives of three gifted siblings who experience great success in youth, and even greater disappointment and failure in adulthood. The children's eccentric father Royal Tenenbaum (Hackman) leaves them in their adolescent years, returning to them after they have grown, and falsely claiming to have a terminal illness. Long after he was shunned by his family, Royal gradually reconciles with his children and ex-wife (Huston).

Comedy-drama genre of theatre, film, and television

Comedy-drama or dramedy, is a genre in film and in television works in which plot elements are a combination of comedy and drama. It is a subgenre of contemporary tragicomedy. Comedy-drama is especially found in television programs and is considered a "hybrid genre".

Wes Anderson American filmmaker

Wesley Wales Anderson is an American filmmaker. His films are known for their distinctive visual and narrative styles. Anderson is regarded by many as a modern-day example of the auteur. He has received consistent praise from critics for his work, and three of his films—The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel—appeared in BBC's 2016 poll of the greatest films since 2000.

Owen Wilson American actor and screenwriter

Owen Cunningham Wilson is an American actor, producer and screenwriter. He has had a long association with filmmaker Wes Anderson, with whom he shared writing and acting credits for Bottle Rocket (1996) and The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), the latter of which earned him a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. His older brother Andrew and younger brother Luke are also actors. He is known for his roles in Frat Pack comedies as well as voicing Lightning McQueen in the Cars franchise.


With a variety of influences, including Louis Malle's 1963 film The Fire Within and Orson Welles' 1942 film The Magnificent Ambersons , the story involves themes of the dysfunctional family, lost greatness, and redemption. An absurdist and ironic sense of humor pervades the film, which features a soundtrack subsequently released in two albums.

Louis Malle French film director, screenwriter, and producer

Louis Marie Malle was a French film director, screenwriter and producer. His film Le Monde du silence won the Palme d'Or in 1956 and the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1957, although he was not credited at the ceremony; the award was instead presented to the film's co-director Jacques Cousteau. Later in his career he was nominated multiple times for Academy Awards. Malle is also one of the few directors to have won the Golden Lion multiple times.

<i>The Fire Within</i> 1963 film by Louis Malle

The Fire Within is a 1963 French drama film directed by Louis Malle. It is based on the novel Will O' the Wisp by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle which itself was inspired by the life of Jacques Rigaut. The film stars Maurice Ronet, Jeanne Moreau—who had previously worked with Ronet and Malle in Elevator to the Gallows—as well as Alexandra Stewart, Bernard Noel, Lena Skerla, Hubert Deschamps and Yvonne Clech. The score features the music of Erik Satie.

Orson Welles American actor, director, writer and producer

George Orson Welles was an American actor, director, writer, and producer who worked in theatre, radio, and film. He is remembered for his innovative work in all three: in theatre, most notably Caesar (1937), a Broadway adaptation of William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar; in radio, the long-remembered 1938 broadcast "The War of the Worlds"; and in film, Citizen Kane (1941), consistently ranked as one of the greatest films ever made.

The Royal Tenenbaums was shot in and around New York City, including a house in Harlem used for the Tenenbaum residence. The filmmakers went to efforts to distinguish the film's backgrounds from a recognizable New York, with fashions and sets combining the appearances of different time periods.

Harlem Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, New York, United States

Harlem is a large neighborhood in the northern section of the New York City borough of Manhattan. Since the 1920s, Harlem has been known as a major African American residential, cultural and business center. Originally a Dutch village, formally organized in 1658, it is named after the city of Haarlem in the Netherlands. Harlem's history has been defined by a series of economic boom-and-bust cycles, with significant population shifts accompanying each cycle.

After debuting at the New York Film Festival, The Royal Tenenbaums received positive reviews from critics and was Anderson's most financially successful film until 2014's The Grand Budapest Hotel . Hackman won a Golden Globe for his performance, and the screenwriters were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. In 2016, it was included in BBC's 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century.

New York Film Festival annual film festival in New York, USA

The New York Film Festival (NYFF) is an annual film festival held every autumn in New York City, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center (FSLC). Founded in 1963 by Richard Roud and Amos Vogel with the support of Lincoln Center president William Schuman, it is one of the longest-running and most prestigious film festivals in the United States. The non-competitive festival is centered around a “Main Slate” of typically 20-30 feature films, with sidebars for experimental cinema and retrospectives, and recently introduced documentary and trans-media sections. Programming is led by a rotating Selection Committee, chaired by the Director of the New York Film Festival, with many committee members remaining from year to year. Separate committees and individuals program the short film, experimental, and trans-media sections.

<i>The Grand Budapest Hotel</i> 2014 film by Wes Anderson

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a 2014 comedy film written and directed by Wes Anderson, from a story by Anderson and Hugo Guinness, inspired by the writings of Stefan Zweig, to which Anderson wrote the film as a tribute.

The Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy is an award presented annually by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. It is given in honor of an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance in a leading role in a musical or comedy film. Previously, there was a single award for "Best Actor in a Motion Picture", but the creation of the category in 1951 allowed for recognition of it and the Best Actor – Drama.


Royal Tenenbaum explains to his three adolescent children, Chas, Margot, and Richie, that he and his wife, Etheline, are separating. Each of the Tenenbaum children achieved great success at a young age. Chas is a math and business genius, from whom Royal steals money. Margot, who was adopted by the Tenenbaums, was awarded a grant for a play that she wrote in the ninth grade. Richie is a tennis prodigy and artist. He expresses his love for his adopted sister Margot through many paintings. Royal takes Richie on regular outings, to which neither of the other children is invited. Eli Cash is the Tenenbaums' neighbor, and Richie's best friend.

Tennis ball sport with racket and net

Tennis is a racket sport that can be played individually against a single opponent (singles) or between two teams of two players each (doubles). Each player uses a tennis racket that is strung with cord to strike a hollow rubber ball covered with felt over or around a net and into the opponent's court. The object of the game is to maneuver the ball in such a way that the opponent is not able to play a valid return. The player who is unable to return the ball will not gain a point, while the opposite player will.

Child prodigy person who, at an early age, develops one or more skills at a level far beyond the norm for their age

A child prodigy is defined in psychology research literature as a person under the age of ten who produces meaningful output in some domain to the level of an adult expert performer.

Twenty-two years later, Royal is kicked out of the hotel where he has been living. All the Tenenbaum children are in a post-success slump, with Richie traveling the world on a cruise ship following a breakdown. He writes a letter to Eli revealing his love for Margot. Chas has become overprotective of his sons, Ari and Uzi, following his wife Rachael's death in a plane crash. Margot is married to neurologist Raleigh St. Clair, from whom she hides her smoking and her checkered past. Raleigh is conducting research on a subject named Dudley Heinsbergen.

Cruise ship passenger ship used for pleasure voyages

A cruise ship is a passenger ship used for pleasure voyages when the voyage itself, the ship's amenities, and sometimes the different destinations along the way, form part of the passengers' experience. Transportation is not the only purpose of cruising, particularly on cruises that return passengers to their originating port. On "cruises to nowhere" or "nowhere voyages", cruise ships make 2-to-3 night round trips without any ports of call.

Etheline's longtime accountant, Henry Sherman, proposes to her. Learning of Henry's proposal, Royal claims that he has stomach cancer to win back the affections of Etheline and his children. Etheline calls each of her children home, and Royal moves into the family home and sets up medical equipment in Richie's room. Royal learns of Chas' overprotective nature and takes his grandsons on an adventure involving shoplifting and dog fighting. On their return, Chas berates him for endangering his boys, and Royal accuses Chas of having a nervous breakdown.

Eli, with whom Margot has been having an affair, tells her that Richie loves her. Royal discovers the affair and objects to Margot's treatment of Raleigh, who confides to Richie his suspicions of Margot. He and Richie hire a private investigator to spy on her. Meanwhile, Henry investigates Royal's cancer claim and discovers his hospital had closed years before, his doctor does not exist, and that his cancer medication is only candy. He confronts Pagoda, the family servant, and gathers the whole family to tell them what he has discovered. Afterwards, Royal and Pagoda move out of the house.

Richie and Raleigh get the private eye's report on Margot, which reveals her history of smoking and sexual promiscuity, including a previous marriage to a Jamaican recording artist. Both men take the news hard, with Richie going into a bathroom, shaving off his hair and beard, and slashing his wrists. Dudley finds him in a pool of blood, and Raleigh rushes him to the hospital. As the Tenenbaums sit in the waiting room, Raleigh confronts Margot and then leaves. Richie escapes the hospital and meets with Margot. They share their secret love and they kiss.

Royal decides that he wants Etheline to be happy, and finally arranges for a divorce. Before Henry and Etheline's wedding, Eli, high on mescaline, crashes his car into the side of the house. Royal rescues Ari and Uzi, but the boys' dog, Buckley, is killed. Enraged, Chas chases Eli through the house and wrestles him to the ground. Eli and Chas agree that they both need psychiatric help. Chas thanks Royal for saving his sons and for buying them a Dalmatian from the responding firemen as a replacement for Buckley. Forty-eight hours later, Etheline and Henry are married in a judge's chambers.

Some time later, Margot releases a new play inspired by her family, Raleigh publishes a book about Dudley's condition, Eli checks himself into a drug rehabilitation facility in North Dakota, and Richie begins teaching a junior tennis program. Chas becomes less overprotective of his children. Royal seems to have improved his relationship with all his children, and seems to be on better terms with Etheline. He has a heart attack and dies at the age of 68. Chas accompanies him in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, and is the only witness to his death. The family attends his funeral, where the epitaph dubiously reads that he "Died tragically rescuing his family from the wreckage of a destroyed sinking battleship."


Anjelica Huston1.JPG
Gene Hackman and Anjelica Huston star as Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum.

The Royal Tenenbaums has an ensemble cast, [5] [6] led by Hackman. [6] [7] Alec Baldwin also serves as the narrator. [7] The fictional family and performers are: [8]

Royal Tenenbaum
(Gene Hackman)
Etheline Tenenbaum
(Anjelica Huston)
Henry Sherman
(Danny Glover)
Chas Tenenbaum
(Ben Stiller)
Young Chas
(Aram Aslanian-Persico)
Richie Tenenbaum
(Luke Wilson)
Young Richie
(Amedeo Turturro)
Margot Helen Tenenbaum
(Gwyneth Paltrow)
Young Margot
(Irene Gorovaia)
Raleigh St. Clair
(Bill Murray)
Eli Cash
(Owen Wilson)
Young Eli
(James Fitzgerald)
Ari Tenenbaum
(Grant Rosenmeyer)
Uzi Tenenbaum
(Jonah Meyerson)
Dudley Heinsbergen
(Stephen Lea Sheppard)
(Kumar Pallana)
Dusty – alias Royal's Dr. McClure
(Seymour Cassel)



A starting point for the story's concept was the divorce of director Wes Anderson's mother and father, though the evolved story bore little resemblance to it. [9] French director Louis Malle's works, such as his 1971 Murmur of the Heart , were an influence on Anderson, with The Royal Tenenbaums particularly drawing from The Fire Within (1963), where a suicidal man tries to meet his friends. [10] A line from The Fire Within is translated into English and appears as "I'm going to kill myself tomorrow." [11] Orson Welles' 1942 film The Magnificent Ambersons was also an influence, [12] with Anderson acknowledging he may have subconsciously selected the main set for its reflection of Welles' production. [13] E. L. Konigsburg's book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler , where the characters Claudia and Jamie run away to live in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, inspired the story of Margot and Richie hiding out in a museum. [14] [15] Having read the book, Anderson said it long stuck with him. [15]

J.D. Salinger's characters in the 1961 book Franny and Zooey inspired much of the child prodigy material. [16] The children of the Glass family in Salinger's work are precocious with an abundance of exceptional talents. [17] Franny and Zooey also features characters wearing distinctive fashions and a character with the name Tannenbaum. [18] "Tenenbaum" is the name of a family of Anderson's acquaintance. [19]

The film Les Enfants Terribles (1950) by Jean-Pierre Melville partly inspired Richie and Margot's relationship. [9] Other inspirations were one of Anderson's childhood friends who loved his sister, and Anderson's interest in the incest taboo; he acknowledged the relationship became more believable when the story was revised to make Margot adopted. [20] In inventing the characters, Owen Wilson and Anderson also used neurologist Oliver Sacks as a model for Raleigh, [21] while the notion of Eli writing Old Custer was based on Cormac McCarthy's style of storytelling. [9] Wilson and Anderson completed the screenplay in two years, needing the extended time because of its complexity. [6]


Luke Wilson.jpg
Luke Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow were cast as Richie and Margot. [22] [23]

Gene Hackman was Anderson's choice for Royal, with Anderson saying, "It was written for him against his wishes." [24] Etheline Tenenbaum was written with Anjelica Huston in mind. [13] Hackman was hesitant about accepting the role, citing his lack of understanding of, or commonalities with Royal. [25] Hackman's agent persuaded him to take the role, though his reluctance led to Michael Caine being considered for the part. [24] Gene Wilder was also rumored to be a possible choice. [26]

Hackman's decision to star made it easier to assemble a cast of high-profile actors to appear with him. [27] However, Ben Stiller and Gwyneth Paltrow were available only for a limited time, requiring the shooting schedule to work around them. [13] Following a nadir in his career with Larger Than Life and The Man Who Knew Too Little in the 1990s, Bill Murray had opted to focus on supporting parts in offbeat comedies, starting with Anderson's Rushmore and then The Royal Tenenbaums. [28] Anderson discovered Stephen Lea Sheppard, who played Dudley, through his friend Judd Apatow, as he was acting in Apatow's television series, Freaks and Geeks . [20]


Around 250 sets were employed during photography, with art director Carl Sprague saying the crew avoided sites that would identify New York City, even altering street signs. [29] The house used in the film is located near the famous Sugar Hill in the Hamilton Heights section of Harlem in Manhattan at 339 Convent Avenue. [30] For the "quintessential New York story," Anderson went location scouting in May 2000, spotted the house and admired what he described as its "storybook quality". [30] The owner, Willie Woods, was planning to remodel it, but agreed to delay the project for six months for principal photography. [30] Anderson said the dalmatian mice that populate the house had their spots applied using a Sharpie. [20]

The Waldorf-Astoria was used for the hotel scenes, [20] while Central Park Zoo depicted a rain forest. [29] A United States Navy training ship represented Richie's ship. [20] The crew also added 10,000 square feet of AstroTurf at Forest Hill, to depict Richie's tennis match. [29]

Filming took place at the Waldorf-Astoria. Waldorf Astoria, NY.jpg
Filming took place at the Waldorf-Astoria.

During production, Anderson gave Huston photographs of his mother who, like Etheline, was an archaeologist. Huston said, "Wes would send pictures of his mother in aviator jackets or on archaeological digs, and he very specifically wanted me to wear a certain locket. Finally, I asked him, 'Wes, am I playing your mother?'" Anderson replied this was not the case. [6]

Anderson and Huston had a tense relationship with Hackman, who was not always amiable on set. [27] On the first day Hackman and Huston appeared in a scene together, Huston had to slap him, and later said the slap was real and "I hit him a really good one. I saw the imprint of my hand on his cheek and I thought, he's going to kill me." [27] During young Margot's birthday scene in the opening scenes, Huston's hair caught fire from a birthday candle. Anderson credited Kumar Pallana with extinguishing the blaze before Huston was seriously injured. [20]

As shooting continued, the bird used for Mordecai was caught by a citizen of New Jersey, who demanded a price for its return. It was replaced instead by one more white in color. [21]


Journalist Jesse Fox Mayshark wrote that, like the similarly-titled The Magnificent Ambersons , Anderson's story follows an older mother considering remarriage, creating a stir in the family. [31] Professor Claire Perkins added that in The Royal Tenenbaums, this tension regarding a possible remarriage has minor class and racial elements, with Chas refusing to call Henry by his first name and Royal calling Henry an "old black buck". [32] Royal also calls Henry "Coltrane" and speaks jive, drawing on racial stereotypes found in media. [33] To the Magnificent Ambersons' family-drama template, Mayshark wrote that Anderson added his "naturally redemptive instincts," stressing "forgiveness" over villainizing the guilty. [34] Royal's "redemption" is a central theme. [7] [35] [36] Professor Carl Plantinga assessed Royal's motives as shifting from "purely selfish" considerations to genuine hopes for reconciliation when he is removed from the home after his false illness is exposed. [37] Perkins observed that before Royal's death, he had endeared himself to each Tenenbaum in some way. [38] To do this, he had to force his way back into the family's lives as an intruder professing an intent to "make up for lost time". [32] The prospect of Royal and Etheline rekindling their marriage is largely regarded as impossible, though she weeps at Royal's false terminal illness, and Royal inquires about her "love life". [39] In the end, the "ritual community celebration signalling successful social integration" that is a staple of comedy endings comes in the form of Etheline's marriage to Henry rather than a remarriage to Royal, Plantinga wrote. [40]

Academic Donna Kornhaber theorized that through adultery and pronouncements that "There are no teams", Royal had separated himself from the Tenenbaums; Royal's belief that he is not a Tenenbaum is signaled when he seconds Eli's sentiment that he "always wanted to be a Tenenbaum". However, Kornhaber added Royal may also view his family members as "external expressions of himself", and this explains why the title refers to them as Royal Tenenbaums. [41]

Orson Welles' 1942 film The Magnificent Ambersons influenced the film's themes, with Anderson selecting a main set reminiscent of Welles' production. The-Magnificent-Ambersons-5.jpg
Orson Welles' 1942 film The Magnificent Ambersons influenced the film's themes, with Anderson selecting a main set reminiscent of Welles' production.

Author Mark Browning also identified the dysfunctional family and family happiness as a key theme. [42] Mayshark commented on the depiction of decline after genius, with all the characters being past the peak of their greatness and now being left "sad, individually and collectively". [43] Browning assessed the Tenenbaum sons and daughter as child prodigies, with "clear-cut genius status". [44] Ethel is not negligent as a mother, [45] fostering her children's talents, though in dispensing money without question she may have spoiled them. [42]

The children grow up hailed as a "family of geniuses," and when they face failure in adulthood, they turn to nostalgia, with academic Daniel Cross Turner remarking the word "nostalgia" literally means returning home in pain. [46] The fact that the Tenenbaums dress alike as children and adults also reveals their nostalgia, [47] and Turner connected Royal's nostalgia with Dudley's fictional Heinsbergen syndrome symptom, an inability to "tell time". [48] Professor Whitney Crothers Dilley considered that confrontation between past reputation and the private reality is what moves Margot not to take the word "genius" lightly, and to deny she was ever a genius, despite Royal insisting people called her one. [17] Although the film ends without any of the characters regaining their lost glory, they form new bonds, particularly between Royal and Chas, or realize secret desires, in the case of Richie and Margot. [38]

Film Professor Christopher Robe commented on the loss of loved ones, particularly Royal's parents and Chas' wife Rachael, having an impact on the characters' depression. Royal's mother Helen O'Reilly Tenenbaum is rarely named, but her role in shaping Royal and guiding his behavior is profound, with Robe arguing this is signified by a shot of Royal under a painting of Helen in a World War II Red Cross outfit. [49] Royal's father is never named, but Royal also misses him; Robe further hypothesized Chas alienating his sons after Rachael's death shows that family history is repeating itself. [50]


Nico provided a model for Margot's character design. Nico at Lampeter University - November 1985 (1).jpg
Nico provided a model for Margot's character design.

The storytelling has been described as "absurdist," [51] [52] ironic, [5] [53] and "whimsical". [51] Mayshark wrote that literature shapes the narrative, which is presented as a book with chapters, a prologue and an epilogue. [54] To the chapter-format of the story, Plantinga added that Baldwin's narration gives "exposition" that "should arouse courtesy" in the viewers for the characters. [55] Commenting on the literary framework, Browning detailed how the first scene has the camera looking down on the book being checked out at the library, followed by the tone of J.D. Salinger's study of "disillusionment". [56] Archaic dialogue with the feel of literature ("You've made a cuckold of me") is combined with crass, casual dialogue ("We can swing by her grave, too"). [17] Film scholar Kim Wilkins also characterized lines such as "I'm very sorry for your loss. Your mother was a terribly attractive woman" as "deadpan", "Andersonian", and "unexpected expressions". [57] Ethel also reveals her fondness for Royal's "little expressions," such as "true blue". [17]

Mayshark added the style is "imaginatively visual," with detailed sets and an ambiguous time setting, featuring fashions from the 1960s to the present. [54] Critic Amy Wallace placed it in Anderson's cinematic universe, where "the colors are brighter, the bookshelves are meticulously ordered, the bunk beds aren't just made – they look like you could bounce a silver dollar off them". [58] Professor Dilley identified the setting with the New York City of the 1970s, matching the backdrop style to depictions of the city in the films The French Connection and Midnight Cowboy ; this feel is heightened by music popular in the 1970s, by The Rolling Stones and Paul Simon. [17] Dilley argued this depiction of a lost New York is connected to "literary history". [17] Plantinga commented an "illustrative, intentionally artificial tableaux" begins immediately with Baldwin's narration. [55]

Wes Anderson's brother Eric Chase Anderson sketched proposed appearances for the characters before shooting. [13] The character Richie is presented as a tennis star with headbands and armbands, and sunglasses that virtually hide his face, until his "ritualistic" shaving scene reveals him. [23] The appearance of Margot, played by Paltrow, was modeled after singer Nico. [22] Chas, played by Stiller, appears in a red tracksuit, matching him with Ari and Uzi and suggesting "running away from sadness". [23] The young performers playing Royal and Ethel's sons and daughter wear the same costumes as their adult counterparts, evoking "arrested development". [59]

With the cinematography, Wes Anderson enjoyed keeping the camera mobile, providing new perspectives in a single take with no actual cut. [13] Analyst Thomas Caldwell judged the cinematography as unusual, comprising "steady symmetrical medium shots" that help the viewer see the characters' emotional anguish more clearly, particularly in their eyes. [60] Author Gustavo Mercado considered the medium shots a tool to give character and surroundings comparable levels of attention, and to communicate the character's eccentricities and activities. Mercado assessed the scene with Margot smoking in the bathroom to display "carefully chosen lighting, depth of field, wardrobe, body language, and ... composition". [61] The opening credits use "medium close-up" shots with each character looking towards the direction of the camera, contributing to the literary narrative as a "Cast of Characters". [62]

The paintings in Eli's apartment are by Mexican artist Miguel Calderón. [63] Font designer Mark Simonson noted Anderson makes extensive use of typography, in particular Futura and its variation Futura Bold. [64] For characters who are not biologically Tenenbaums, such as Raleigh, other typefaces are used, such as Helvetica on the covers of the character's books. [64]


Anderson declared The Royal Tenenbaums to be "the most complex, ambitious musical piece I've ever worked on". [65] The soundtrack features rock songs from the 1960s through the 1990s. There have been two soundtrack album releases for the film, [66] though not all of the songs used in the film appear on the albums. [66] [67] Songs used include: Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard", Van Morrison's "Everyone", John Lennon's "Look at Me", Nick Drake's "Fly", The Mutato Muzika Orchestra version of The Beatles' "Hey Jude", "These Days" by Nico, and two songs by The Rolling Stones. [66] [67] Erik Satie's "Gymnopédie" is also used in the film, [68] as is the iconic song of A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) by Vince Guaraldi. [12] According to the marketing of the film, particular musical instruments are matched with each character, with the association established in the introductory narration and continuing to the conclusion. [65]

In 2002, the soundtrack was re-released containing the score, composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, along with more of the songs. The Rolling Stones' songs "She Smiled Sweetly" and "Ruby Tuesday" were omitted for lack of rights. [66]


The film premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 5, 2001, which had previously screened Anderson's Rushmore in 1998. [1] Distributed by Touchstone Pictures, [69] it opened in New York City and Los Angeles in December 2001. [70] In February 2002, it was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival. [71]

To mark a decade since its debut, Anderson and his stars returned to the New York Film Festival for a screening of The Royal Tenenbaums in fall 2011. [72] After previously publishing a DVD edition, The Criterion Collection released a Blu-ray in Region A in 2012. [73]


Box office

On its opening weekend, The Royal Tenenbaums made $276,891 in five theaters, or around $55,396 at each venue. [69] By February 2002, it doubled Rushmore''s total gross at the U.S. box office. [74]

The film finished its run on June 20, 2002, with a gross of $52,364,010 in North America. It made $19,077,240 in other territories, for a worldwide total of $71,441,250. [4] With the final $70 million gross, it remained Anderson's most financially successful film when it returned to the New York Film Festival in 2011. [72] The Grand Budapest Hotel surpassed it in 2014. [75]

Critical response

The film was met with mostly positive reviews, holding an 80% "Fresh" rating at the website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 202 reviews, and a 7.5/10 weighted average. [76] On its premiere at the New York Film Festival, A.O. Scott wrote in The New York Times that it eventually won him over as charming, and that Hackman brought "quick precision and deep seriousness [that] nearly rescue[d] this movie from its own whimsy". [1] Variety 's Todd McCarthy described the film, "As richly conceived as the novel it pretends to be." [77] Richard Schickel of Time wrote, "As with Anderson's Rushmore, there's a certain annoying preciousness to this film—it's not so consistently wise or amusing as he thinks it is—but it has its moments". [78] Roger Ebert awarded it three-and-a-half stars, admiring how viewers can be ambiguous to the events in the story. [79] The San Francisco Chronicle 's Mick LaSalle was enthusiastic praising the film as "like no other, an epic, depressive comedy, with lots of ironic laughs and a humane and rather sad feeling at its core". [80] Anthony Lane commented in The New Yorker on the setting, which did not truly feel like New York, but "a step-city, or a city-in-law," and said that "the communal oddity" gradually won him over. [81] The New York Post 's Lou Lumenick hailed it as "the year's best movie" and "possibly the most quintessential New York film since Manhattan ". [82] Peter Travers found all the cast great in different ways, while singling out Hackman. [83] L.A. Weekly 's Manohla Dargis wrote it had enough laughs to be classified as a comedy, but it contained "a deep vein of melancholia to its drollery". [84] The Guardian 's Joe Queenan embraced it as a "bizarre redemption tale". [7]

Critics debated the merits of Wes Anderson's style. Wes Anderson.JPG
Critics debated the merits of Wes Anderson's style.

Some critics disagreed about the success of the film and its style. New York 's Peter Rainer wrote, "Anderson is something of a prodigy himself, and he's riddled with talent, but he hasn't figured out how to be askew and heartfelt at the same time." [85] In the Los Angeles Times , Kenneth Turan assessed the film as indulging too far in Anderson's vision, creating an unknown world. [86] In his 2015 Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin gave it two-and-a-half stars, complimenting the eccentricity, but finding no storyline. [87]

Time listed Royal Tenenbaums in its Top 10 Troubled Genius Films list in 2009, comparing Anderson's characters to Salinger's, in an "ultimately touching package". [5] In 2013, Time also named Henry Sherman as one of 10 memorable accountant characters in film history, citing his decency, success as an author and lack of confidence in his pursuit of Etheline. [88] In 2014, The Huffington Post journalist Lisa Thomson evaluated it as one of Anderson's best films, and that finding laughs in divorce was a highlight. [89] In 2017, Vanity Fair cited Richie's tennis meltdown scene as one of the best tennis scenes in cinema history, making an analogy to Björn Borg. [90]

In 2008, a poll taken by Empire ranked The Royal Tenenbaums as the 159th greatest film ever made. [91] A 2016 poll of international critics assembling BBC's 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century also voted it one of the 100 greatest motion pictures since 2000. [92] Hackman has received kudos for his performance. [27] [93] In 2015, IndieWire named Royal as Anderson's most memorable character, crediting Hackman for bringing the character beyond the director's norm; the same list also named Margot "the ur-Anderson female" character. [94]


The film received a nomination at the 74th Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay. CNN reported that it had been considered as a possibility for nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Actor for Hackman. [95] Hackman did win the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, but was unable to accept the award in person. [96]

AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipient(s)ResultRef(s)
Academy Awards March 24, 2002 Best Original Screenplay Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson Nominated [97]
American Cinema Editors February 24, 2002 Best Edited Feature Film - Comedy or Musical Dylan Tichenor Nominated [98]
American Film Institute January 5, 2002 Featured Actor of the Year - Male - Movies Gene Hackman Won [99]
Art Directors Guild February 23, 2002 Excellence in Production David Wasco, Carl Sprague, Adam Scher, Doug HusztiNominated [29]
British Academy Film Awards February 24, 2002 Best Original Screenplay Wes Anderson, Owen WilsonNominated [100]
Broadcast Film Critics Association January 11, 2002 Best Acting Ensemble Cast Nominated [101]
Chicago Film Critics Association February 25, 2002 Best Screenplay Wes Anderson, Owen WilsonNominated [102]
Best Actor Gene HackmanWon [103]
Costume Designers Guild March 16, 2002 Excellence in Contemporary Film Karen PatchWon [29]
Golden Globes January 20, 2002 Best Actor – Musical or Comedy Gene HackmanWon [104]
Guldbagge Awards February 3, 2003 Best Foreign Film Wes AndersonNominated [105]
National Society of Film Critics January 4, 2002 Best Actor Gene HackmanWon [106]
New York Film Critics Circle December 13, 2001 Best Screenplay Wes Anderson, Owen WilsonRunner-up [107]
Satellite Awards January 19, 2002 Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical Wes AndersonNominated [108]
Best Actor, Comedy or Musical Gene HackmanNominated
Best Supporting Actress, Comedy or Musical Anjelica Huston Nominated
Gwyneth Paltrow Nominated
Best Supporting Actor, Comedy or Musical Ben Stiller Nominated
Owen Wilson Nominated
Toronto Film Critics Association December 20, 2001 Best Screenplay Wes Anderson, Owen WilsonRunner-up [109]
Best Supporting Actress Gwyneth PaltrowRunner-up
Writers Guild of America March 2, 2002 Best Original Screenplay Wes Anderson, Owen WilsonNominated [110]
Young Artist Awards April 7, 2002 Best Supporting Young Actress Irene Gorovaia Nominated [111]
Best Young Actor Age Ten or Under Jonah Meyerson Nominated
Grant Rosenmeyer Nominated


Fans dress as Margot and Richie at the 2014 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo. C2E2 2014 - Royal Tenenbaums (14085525128).jpg
Fans dress as Margot and Richie at the 2014 Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo.

The narration and the way the film follows each family member was reprised in Fox's critically acclaimed television sitcom Arrested Development . Jason Bateman, one of the show's stars, describes the show as "The Royal Tenenbaums shot like COPS ". [112] Arrested Development creator and head writer Mitchell Hurwitz said that when he saw The Royal Tenenbaums, he already had the idea for Arrested Development in mind and thought, "Well, that's it, I can't do that anymore," but subsequently changed his mind. [113]

Alec Baldwin, the narrator, has effusively praised the film, including it in his Top 10 Criterion Collection and calling it "arguably one of the most original movies, in tone and style, since Robert Altman's M*A*S*H ". [114] He also modeled his performance of the character Jack Donaghy on the television series 30 Rock after Hackman's speech and movements as Royal Tenenbaum. [115]

The Tenenbaums' style has been cited as an influence in fashion design, and Margot Tenenbaum has been described by Vogue as the "muse of the season" for Spring/Summer 2015 collections. [116] [117]

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