Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wes Anderson Week: 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

With a critical and mainstream audience firmly in his corner, Wes Anderson followed up 'Rushmore' with this 2001 film. When the project was first announced, my first apprehensions were about the ensemble cast. Reading about the involvement of Hollywood giants like Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Anjelica Houston and Gwyneth Paltrow made me question whether it was all over before the film had even been released. When the trailer was first released, I assumed, wrongly, the movie was adapted from one of my favorite J.D. Salinger books, 'Franny and Zooey'. It wasn't, but you have to admit there are a few similarities.

I digress. The film was just slightly below his previous work, in my opinion, and there are moments I think are brilliant. A few of my favorite scenes include Raleigh St. Clair and Dudley trying to sort out Heinsbergen Syndrome, Royal ripping it up with his grandkids, the tennis match and the background file on Margot. The supplemental DVD on the Criterion Collection edition of the film has a talk-show spoof using Peter Bradley, the TV host from the film, leading an interview with the movie's most minor actors. His Charlie Rose mannerisms and line of questioning are a smile.

I have a huge bone to pick when it comes to the soundtrack. I purchased it on the first day it was released in December 2001. I had no idea the set would be rereleased seven months later as a "collector's edition" with additional tracks. So, I didn't get John Lennon's "Look at Me", Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard" and a couple of other little nuggets. Sure, I own these songs on other discs, but that's not the point. Vital songs from the movie that didn't make the soundtrack include Van Morrison's "Everyone", and The Rolling Stones' "She Smiled Sweetly" and "Ruby Tuesday". For this, the soundtrack loses a grade.

Mark Mothersbaugh's score is strong and includes a few longer pieces. One of them, "Lindbergh Palace Hotel Suite", was replaced by a Mutato Muzika Orchestra version in the collector's edition. That was a mistake. Of all the music in this film, Anderson's use of Nico's "These Days" and "The Fairest of the Seasons" are my favorites. These songs come from her solo debut, 'Chelsea Girl'. Her record is a must purchase. Overall, I don't listen to 'Royal Tenenbaums' as much as 'Rushmore', but it still stands as one of the strongest soundtracks of this decade.

Nico - These Days (mp3)
Ramones - Judy Is a Punk (mp3)
The Velvet Underground - Stephanie Says (mp3)
Nick Drake - Fly (mp3)
Mark Mothersbaugh - Sparkplug Minuet (mp3)

Margot Tenenbaum's Background File

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