The Tenenbaum Family is 20 years old: with this film, Wes Anderson is building something big [critique]

The Tenenbaum Family

In March 2002, Première fell under the spell of Wes Anderson’s third film. Flashback.

The Tenenbaum family of Wes Anderson celebrates its 20th anniversary this Sunday, March 13, 2022. So First searches through its archives and invites you to review on VOD on Première Max.

In the Tenebaum family, the children quickly proved gifted. At just twelve years old, Chas was already a master of finance, Margot a writing genius, and Richie a rising tennis star. But, one day, Royal and Etheline, the parents, separate. Twenty years later, the father scours the palaces, Chas tries to raise his sons alone after the death of his wife. Margot, depressed, married a shrink and Richie has been traveling the world since he broke down during a match. A mess for which Royal seems to be solely responsible. But here he is back, determined to be forgiven.


The Tenenbaum family, it was the film that allowed Anderson to establish himself as one of the most prominent directors of his time. Three years after the revelation Rushmoreand five years after his very first film Bottle Rocketalready co-written with Owen Wilson, the filmmaker delivered this moving and funny chronicle of a dysfunctional family that learns to find each other when the patriarch Royal Tenenbaum decides to make up for lost time. Camped by a Gene Hackman at the peak of his art, crowned with a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or musical film, he shines in the midst of an impressive cast (Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, Bill Murray, Danny Glover) placed at the service of the already very assured style of Wes Anderson.

How to recognize a Wes Anderson film?

Already at the time of its release, First was seduced by what was to become a classic in the director’s filmography:

Wes Anderson’s third film is a strange object that is both old-fashioned and timeless, rigorous and bubbling. While his previous Rushmoredescribed the special relationship between a teenager and a surrogate father, The Tenenbaum Family is interested in the family unit and its precarious balance. A family of geniuses that the disappearance of the patriarch, as mocking, lying and cantankerous as he is, has deeply affected to the point of abandoning all brilliance. The film does not lack it. It is savored like the book whose structure it embraces, each image being one of those excessively chided sentences that deserves re-reading. Anderson would be like a writer who applies himself to writing between the lines and whose prose rewards those who linger on it. The director sets up an infinitely personal but welcoming universe in which all the elements communicate. Sets, costumes, music, acting, constantly interact and enrich each other exponentially. The result is disconcertingly subtle, drama often competing with comedy in the same scene. This extreme meticulousness could leave some spectators unmoved. Yet by adding up the small, the seemingly insignificant, Anderson ostensibly builds something big.

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