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Weird family fights itself

movie-reviews Updated: Jan 20, 2012 16:45 IST

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Highlight Story

The Royal Tenenbaums
Direction: Wes Anderson
Walt Disney India/Touchstone, Rs 399
Rating: ***

Theirs is one of the most dysfunctional families in Hollywood. And that’s saying a lot. Consider their unique situation. Parents with the improbable names of Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum have raised a family of child prodigies. Richie is a tennis star and an amateur painter. Chas is a genius with numbers and has a business empire in which he involves his two little sons who look just like him. Even Margot, the daughter who’s constantly reminded that she is adopted, wrote a play when she was nine. Eli Cash, their neighbour, is a young and seemingly successful author.

None of them really get along with their politically incorrect father Royal (a hippie-casual Gene Hackman), who is estranged from their mother (Angelica Houston in another wronged-woman-kicks-back role). But when he is broke and kicked out of his semi-permanent hotel residence, he seeks out his family. The only person who sticks by him is Pagoda, an assassin who stuck a knife into him once in Kolkata. But to compound Royal’s problems, his children are all in a post-success slump. So he lies that he’s dying. And sure enough, he gets caught. Should they forgive him? Why?

Director Wes Anderson, who also made The Darjeeling Limited, has a flair for placing the absurd in the middle of an explosive situation. Here he does it again, with a straight face.