Even before Nathaniel ordered us to rewatch The Royal Tenenbaums for his excellent “Best Shot” series I was thinking about the film when a friend brought up Wes Anderson. He scoffed at me because I said my favourite Anderson film (barring Moonrise Kingdom, which I’ve yet to see) was The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The fact that his favourite Anderson film is The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou did not stop him from scoffing, mind you. I include this preamble because even as random knowledge suggests that this is Anderson's apex, I always feel he's the type of filmmaker whose "best" film is not relegated to a single entry.
Favourite, or no The Royal Tenenbaums is an admirable film. It intrigues me most because of the way it seems to just pour out of Anderson’s mind unencumbered which is a wee bit ironic considering that with its pervasive narrator, occasional focus on preciousness and its jumps in time. But, nonetheless, The Royal Tenenbaums is a film which unfolds with a salient amount of easiness which is deliberately deceptive because it scrutinises such uncomfortable familial issues – divorce, substance abuse, deadbeat dads, incest (!). I’m especially partial to artistic renderings of family relations because whether or not they’re inspired by the artist’s own life, they reveal such key things about the innate sadness which comes with familial relations.
In the fight of which of the Tenenbuam children has been most affected by their tumultuous lives, it seems unfair to put them in competition. But, I shall not lie when I say that I’m immediately drawn to the “adopted” child of the group so beautifully played by Gwyneth Paltrow.
Viola de Lesseps, but Margot Tenenbaum is a close second. What makes Margot work so effectively for me in the film is the odd feeling I have that the character succeeds less because of Anderson’s writing and more because of Paltrow’s performance. After all: ostensibly dour, occasional wisecracking sister doesn’t have a significant lilt to it but then the performance itself seems to be so nuanced (credit probably would go to Anderson’s direction) that it transcends such a glib description.
Like all my best shot adventures, I took in excess of 20 screen-caps before I decided on the ones I’d focus on – all, but four, of these featured Margot. A quarter way through the film I realised in all general shots by eyes would start straying to the peripherals to fine where she was lurking. These two are significant.
Ultimately, familial drama notwithstanding, The Royal Tenenbaums depends on its comedy and in commenting on Margot’s aloofness these two shots touch on what makes the humour in the character work.
But, the laughter is a sad one. Because, it is not comedic that Margot seems so equally unresponsiveness to joy and sadness. And then, that moment comes which elicits a new response in her and it seems to fill the entire screen with joy.
|MY BEST SHOT|
How could I resist the promise hope in the wake of potential sadness?
Head over to chez Nathaniel for a series of great posts on best shots in The Royal Tenenbuams.