The Royal Tenenbaums is a 2001 American comedy-drama film directed by Wes Anderson and co-written with Owen Wilson. The film stars Gene Hackman and Anjelica Huston, with Danny Glover, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, and Owen Wilson.
It follows the lives of three gifted siblings who experience great success in youth, and even greater disappointment and failure after their eccentric father leaves them in their adolescent years. An ironic and absurdist sense of humor pervades the film.
Royal Tenenbaum is explaining to his three children, Chas, Margot, and Richie, that he and his wife, Etheline, are separating. The scene then evolves into a short explanation of how each child experiences great success at a very young age. Chas is a math and business genius, from whom Royal steals money. Margot is adopted, and was awarded a grant for a play that she wrote in the ninth grade. Richie is a tennis prodigy and artist. He expresses his love for adopted sister Margot through many paintings. Royal takes him on regular outings, to which neither of the other children are invited. Eli Cash is the Tenenbaums’ neighbor, and Richie’s best friend.
22 years later, Royal is kicked out of the hotel he has been living in. Meanwhile, all of the Tenenbaum children are in a post-success slump. Richie is traveling the world in a cruise ship following a breakdown; he writes a letter to Eli saying that he is in love with Margot. Chas has become extremely overprotective of his two sons, Ari and Uzi, following his wife Rachael’s death in a plane crash. Margot is married to neurologist Raleigh St. Clair, from whom she hides her smoking and her checkered past. Raleigh is conducting research on a subject named Dudley Heinsbergen. Etheline’s accountant, Henry Sherman, proposes to her.
Given the news that Etheline is considering marrying Henry, Royal devises a plan to convince Etheline that he has stomach cancer in order to win her and his children’s affections back. He tells Etheline of his cancer, moves in, and sets up medical equipment in Richie’s room. Etheline calls each of her children home. Royal learns of Chas’ overprotective nature and decides to take his grandsons out on an adventure involving shoplifting and dog fighting. Upon their return, Chas berates him for endangering his boys. Royal accuses Chas of having a nervous breakdown.
Eli, with whom Margot has been having an affair, tells her that Richie loves her. Royal discovers the affair and objects to Margot’s treatment of Raleigh, who confides to Richie his suspicions of Margot. He and Richie then hire a private investigator to spy on her.
Henry investigates Royal’s cancer claim and discovers the hospital had closed years before, his doctor is fake, and that his cancer medication is just Tic Tacs. He then confronts Pagoda, and gathers the whole family to tell them what he’s discovered; after which, Royal and Pagoda leave.
Richie and Raleigh get the private eye’s report on Margot. Upon hearing it, Raleigh only comments on her smoking but Richie takes the news much harder. He goes into the bathroom, shaves off his beard and most of his hair, and calmly slits his wrists. Dudley finds him in a pool of blood, and Raleigh rushes him to the hospital. Soon after, as the Tenenbaums sit in the waiting room, Raleigh confronts Margot before leaving. Later, Richie escapes the hospital and meets with Margot. They share with each other their secret love and kiss.
Royal decides that he wants Etheline to be happy and has arranged for the two of them to be divorced. Before Henry and Etheline’s wedding, Eli, high on mescaline, crashes his car into the side of the house, narrowly missing Ari and Uzi, whom Royal moves out of the way. Enraged, Chas chases Eli through the house; when he catches up to him, the two wrestle to the ground. Eli realizes that he needs serious help and Chas agrees that he needs help as well. Chas thanks Royal for saving his sons. Forty-eight hours later, Etheline and Henry are married in a judge’s chambers.
Time passes and Margot releases a new play based on her family. Raleigh publishes a book on Dudley’s condition, Eli checks himself into rehab in North Dakota, and Richie starts a junior tennis program. Royal has a heart attack and dies, with Chas as the only witness. The family attends his funeral and leave together after the service.
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