Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

In Wes Anderson's eccentric dramatic comedy with an ensemble cast - about three gifted siblings in the wealthy Tenenbaum family in NYC who turned dysfunctional in their adult years:

  • the opening introductory sequence (with off-screen voice-over by Narrator (Alec Baldwin) who opened a book at various chapters) - he spoke about the cast of characters in the Tenenbaum family: comprised of three young children - siblings Margot (Irene Gorovaia), Chas (Aram Aslanian-Persico), and Richie (Amedeo Turturro), who were seated before their patriarchal father Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman); he announced to them an impending divorce between himself and their mother Etheline "Ethel" Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston) - but it was never legalized; he separated and moved out to an exclusive hotel (the Lindbergh Palace Hotel) while she raised the children in their house - all geniuses
  • Etheline wrote a book about their successes titled "Family of Geniuses" -- Chas was a business, chemistry and math wizard who made lots of money selling Dalmatian mice, while the adopted Margot was a revered playwright, and Richie was an aspiring painter and champion tennis pro; Richie's neighbor and best friend was Eli Cash (James Fitzgerald), a future novelist
Tenenbaum Children (l to r): Margot, Chas, and Richie
Royal Tenenbaum
(Gene Hackman)
Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston)
  • twenty-two years later, the Narrator noted how Royal's unequal treatment of his children had led to their gifted declines: "Virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums had been erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster"; Royal - a prominent litigator who was disbarred in the mid-1980s (and imprisoned) - was evicted from his luxury hotel room after 22 years
  • in an impressive sequence, the major grown-up characters were introduced - each with a medium close-up with name and cast credits, engaged in some activity expressive of their character
22 Years Later
Royal Tenenbaum
Etheline Tenenbaum

The Three Grown-Up Tenenbaum Children
Chas (Ben Stiller)
with Two Sons
(Gwyneth Paltrow)
(Luke Wilson)
  • after a nervous breakdown and "Meltdown!", Richie (Luke Wilson) had retired from pro tennis at age 26 and was cruising by himself around the world; Richie admitted that he was secretly in love with his own adopted sister, Margot, to his best friend - English Lit. Ass't Prof. Eli Cash (Owen Wilson); Eli had become a literary celebrity for his speculative western novels
  • the very secretive Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) had become a closeted chain-smoker (locked in her bathroom for hours) and was in a mis-matched and loveless marriage to elderly writer and neurologist Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray); Margot's first marriage to a Jamaican recording artist had failed; she kept a private studio in Mockingbird Heights under the assumed name of 'Helen Scott'; suffering from writer's block, Margot's last play was seven years earlier; her husband Raleigh was conducting research and writing a book on Richie's friend Dudley Heinsbergen (Stephen Lea Sheppard) who suffered from 'Heinsbergen Syndrome' ("a rare disorder combining symptoms of amnesia, dyslexia and color blindness...")
  • Chas (Ben Stiller) was mourning the loss of his wife Rachael in a small plane crash the previous year (2000); he had become an overprotective, safety-minded single father raising his two sons, Ari (Grant Rosenmeyer) and Uzi (Jonah Meyerson) and their beagle dog Buckley; they wore identical red track suits for every emergency; meanwhile, the academic-minded Etheline had become an archaeologist and was presented with a proposal of marriage by her long-time, love-struck business manager-accountant friend Henry Sherman (Danny Glover)
  • after learning from his longtime servant Pagoda (Kumar Pallana) that Etheline had been proposed to by her black "two-bit chartered accountant," Royal was disturbed by news of her infidelity and was prejudiced against Henry (calling him a "big, old black buck"; he became determined to win her affection and his family back via fraud and deception; when evicted from his hotel, Royal manufactured the false claim that he had developed terminal stomach cancer; he met up with Etheline and requested a favor: "I want to spend some time with you and the children...I want my family back...Baby, I'm dyin'!...I'll be dead in six weeks"
  • Etheline agreed to have increasingly-paranoid Chas (and his two young sons) pack up and move back in with her; severely depressed and "in a rut" Margot (involved in an affair with Eli) also moved back and was in love with her own brother Richie, Eli's best friend; Chas (still mistrusting of his father after many years of favoritism toward "papa's boy" Richie, and takeover of his funds from his safe deposit box when he was younger) was not interested in having his two boys (grandsons) get to know his own father, although they went on adventures together including cart-racing, horse-back riding, water-balloon tossing, shoplifting, garbage-truck riding, and dog-fight gambling
Various Love Affairs
Margot in Love with Her Own Brother Richie
Margo also with Eli
Etheline with Henry Sherman
  • after moving back in, Royal set up his medical monitoring equipment in Richie's room, and had his friend Dusty (Seymour Cassel) employed at the Lindbergh Palace Hotel pose as his doctor
The 'Sickly' Royal
Royal in a Sickbed in Richie's Room
  • Etheline's fiancee Henry Sherman (suspicious that Royal wasn't really dying) confirmed that Royal had a bogus claim about his cancer (there was no Colby General Hospital with a Dr. McClure, he was eating greasy fast foods, and his prescription medication was merely Tic Tac candy); as a result, Royal (with Pagoda) was evicted from the house; as he left, he affirmed: "The last six days have been the best six days of probably my whole life" - they were forced to room together at the 375th Street YMCA while employed as elevator operators at the Lindbergh Palace Hotel
  • meanwhile, Eli broke up with Margot over her two-timing, "sick and gross" relationship with Richie; the jealous Raleigh (along with Richie) hired a private detective to conduct surveillance on Margot's unusual love life; to the tune of "Judy is a Punk" by the Ramones, a montage illustrated the results of the investigator's 'BACKGROUND FILE' on Margot and confirmed her infidelities - her very shady past included a heavy smoking addiction at age 12, her escape from boarding school at age 14, a nine-day marriage in Jamaica at age 19, a lesbian affair with a Parisian girl (Tatiana Abbey) at age 21, a publicity tour at age 24, and a number of instances of sexual promiscuity with numerous lovers in New York, including Eli at age 32; Raleigh's simple reaction was: "She smokes?"
  • to the tune of Elliott Smith's "Needle in the Hay," the scene of the suicide of Richie who was in pain over his obsessive love for Margot and her secret history; he entered into a locked bathroom where he methodically shaved off his beard and long hair (grown after he quit tennis), and then calmly attempted to take his own life by slashing his wrists with the blade from his razor
Attempted Suicide of Richie
Over His Obsessive Love for Margot
  • after Richie's bloody body was discovered on the floor of the bathroom by Dudley, Richie was rushed to a hospital on a stretcher and rapidly survived his bungled suicide; Raleigh accused Margot of being unfaithful ("You've made a cuckold of me...many times over") and causing Richie's death wish: ("And you nearly killed your poor brother...she's balling Eli Cash"); shortly later, Richie escaped from the hospital, took a Green Line bus back home, climbed the fire escape to his room (all to the tune of Nick Drake's "Fly"), and found Margot there in his private yellow tent listening to phonograph records - they shared their secret love and kissed to the tune of the Rolling Stones' "She Smiled Sweetly" and "Ruby Tuesday"; he admitted he had tried to kill himself due to her, but it wasn't her fault: "Yeah, but it's not your fault"; she told him: 'I think we're just gonna have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that, Richie"
Margot and Richie Reconciled and In Love
  • as the film was approaching its conclusion, Royal gave his wife the official divorce she had always wanted; during preparations for the wedding day of Etheline and Henry, crazed, drug-addicted, war-paint-wearing Eli lost control and crashed his car into the front of the house, and nearly hit Chas' two boys Ari and Uzi (but killed Buckley); incensed by the catastrophe, Chas chased and wrestled with Eli throughout the house, until they both fell exhausted next to each other and admitted they needed psychiatric help (Eli: "I need help" Chas: "So do I"); the presiding Father Petersen (Philip Denning) was taken away in an ambulance with a broken ankle; Royal bought the boys a Dalmatian replacement dog (named Spark Plug) from a responding firefighter, and apologized to Chas ("Sorry I let you down, Chas. All of you. I been trying to make it up to you"); Chas teared up: "I've had a rough year, Dad"; and two days later, the interrupted marriage between Etheline and Henry was formalized before a judge
Crazed Eli
Crashed Car at Front of House
Chas and Eli - Exhausted and Needing Help
A New Dog for Chas' Boys, to Replace Buckley
  • the resolution of the lives of different family members, including Royal's attempts to make amends and reconcile, included the following:
    - Margot: published a new play ("The Levinsons in the Trees") based upon her family (with the alias name the Levinsons), that was presented at the Cavendish Theatre for two weeks, with mixed reviews
    - Raleigh and Dudley: promoted "their new book" DUDLEY'S WORLD on a lecture tour to eleven universities
    - Eli: entered a drug rehab facility in North Dakota for treatment
    - Richie: became a teacher in a pre-teen tennis program for boys at the 375th Street Y
    - Chas: became more relaxed and began riding on the back of garbage trucks with Royal and his boys
  • in the final moments of the film, Royal suffered a fatal heart attack at age 68, and died on the way to the hospital with Chas the only one in the ambulance to be with him; at Royal's funeral held at dusk, the fanciful epitaph on his tombstone read: "1932-2001 - Died tragically rescuing his family from the wreckage of a destroyed sinking battleship"; family members filed away in slow-motion from the gravesite, to the tune of Van Morrison's "Everyone"

The Tenenbaums: "Family of Geniuses"

Royal On an Outing with Young Richie

Richie's Best Friend Eli Cash

22 Years Later:

Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) - Margot's Estranged Husband

Henry Sherman (Danny Glover) - Etheline's Accountant

Eli Cash
(Owen Wilson)

Royal Evicted From the Lindbergh Palace Hotel

Pagoda (Kumar Pallana) - Royal's Servant

Royal to Etheline: "I'll be dead in six weeks"

Margot with Richie

Strained Relationship Between Chas (and Two Sons) and His Father Royal

Friends Eli and Richie

Margot Estranged From Suspicious Husband Raleigh

Adventures with Grandpa: Shoplifting and Garbage-Truck Riding

Henry Confronting Royal About His Bogus Claim of Cancer

Private Investigator - Looking into Margot's Life

Part of A Montage of Margot's Uncovered Shady Past - A Lesbian Affair

The Tenenbaum Divorce Made Official

Henry and Etheline's Marriage

Chas with His Father Royal When He Died in Ambulance

Royal's Tombstone Epitaph


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