Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot: The Royal Tenenbaums

I was very pleased to be asked to participate in The Film Experience's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" series, in which various bloggers all pick their favorite shot from a specific film. This week, Wes Anderson's almost-perfect The Royal Tenenbaums, a film that has grown on me throughout the years. When I first saw it I fell in love with the elder characters, Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman and Anjelica Huston), plus Etheline's suitor Henry (Danny Glover), but I was less pleased with their moody off-spring, Richie, Chas, and Margot (Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller, and Gwyneth Paltrow). But, like families maybe, they've all grown on me, and one day maybe I'll even grow to appreciate Eli Cash, the annoying wannabe Tenenbaum played by Owen Wilson.

But it's still Gene Hackman as the disgraced patriarch Royal that I love the most. He is the heart and soul of the film and Hackman's performance, for my money, is one of the best of his career (no small accomplishment). So I'm going with my gut on this one, and instead of one of Anderson's beautifully composed intricately designed filmic dioramas I have picked the shot that moves me the most. Royal in the ambulance, dying and being comforted by Chas, the son he was most at odds with.

It's still a beautifully composed shot, of course. Anderson excels at the dynamic frame, filling it with meaningful details. In this case note the presence of Sparkplug, the dog that Royal purchases from the fire department to replace his grandchildren's dead pooch Buckley. (Note to Wes Anderson: Please stop killing dogs in movies.) There is also the nicely laid-out pin-stripe jacket to balance the frame.

But I picked this frame because it's about forgiveness and redemption, which is what The Royal Tenenbaums is ultimately about, among other things, of course. Cheeseburgers, dalmatian mice, tennis meltdowns, wooden fingers, etcetera.

The screenshot is mine. Below are a few more I took while re-watching the film. I have to say that I was sorely tempted to select the one of Royal laughing at Margot's play while everyone else frowns.

"Is that a tic tac?"


  1. Nice choice. I also went with an emotional shot for my submission.

  2. That's a really phenomenal choice. I admire that you went for a shot that's both emotional and stylistically Anderson-ey, instead of just fixing on the style.

    Welcome to the game!