Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Applying my very limited critical faculties to a ten-year old film.

I managed to catch a bit of The Royal Tenenbaums the other night while scanning the Dish for made-for-cable slasher flicks, true crime documentaries, and any number of shows featuring gay men critiquing fashion and style.  Okay, so I also occasionally watch Piers Morgan too.

My surfing yielded this insight:   The Rotal Tenenbaums is a much better film if you just watch the last ten minutes or so.  An old friend of mine, after I posted this observation on Facebook, mentioned that he never got that far because the film was a "piece of crap."  Au contraire, my French-speaking faux-Texan theater geek.   I think it's only fair that if you call something a piece of crap, you need to watch at least half of it to, you know, have some sort of authority on the subject.  

So what's up with TRT?  Well, it's a Wes Anderson film.  It's for many of us, THE Wes Anderson film, or at least the one that marked his transition from indie semi-cult guy to "major director" (in a still kinda minor sort of way).   It's typically over-saturated in both primary colors and WA's primary actors.  Characters have audacious names.  Absurdity seems to be normalized, and hence, no longer absurd.  Everyone says hello and everyone is a bit sad and precious.

This film is no more a piece of crap than, well, a piece of crap.  It's better than crap.  Is it a "good" movie?  I'm not so sure.  I do feel fairly confident in proclaiming it a failure.  But a lot of art, good and bad, enduring and vaporous, fails.  

I'm not against Wes Anderson, nor am I a fan boy.  Royal is his "one big chance" film, it seems.  He takes all of his obsessions, affectations, general anxiety, and compresses them into a ball of a mess of a cartoon of a movie that happens to include Gene Hackman and Danny Glover.   And those Wilsons.    It's a mess, yes.   Eliot, rather famously (if you read shit like that--I, unfortunately and fortunately, do) wrote that Hamlet is a mess, a bad play, etc.   And well, I agree that Hamlet is a mess.  It's also brilliantly messy.  Wes Anderson is no Shakespeare.  Neither is Chris Marlowe, but that's for another post.

So, to you Todd Sheets, who deemed The Royal Tenenbaums "a piece of crap," I say, just watch the last 10 minutes or so.  It's rather pretty, actually.  You get the aftermath of a clusterfuck, some pretty colors and confused people, all the  major characters making appearances but few of them having anything stupid to say, as the dialogue is pretty slim, and then you get a funeral, where everyone is quiet because it's a funeral. You get the Anderson, single filing ending scene, slow-mo, and of course, you get Van Morrison singing "Everyone," which is lovely. Our man WA really *does* have a way with a soundtrack, despite his often slipshod auteur's eye.

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