Saturday, March 15, 2014

Wes Anderson Roundtable #3: The Royal Tenenbaums


Individual Reviews are useful, but criticism is a dialogue, not a monologue. I’m Max O’Connell of The Film Temple, he’s Loren Greenblatt of Screen Vistas, and we’ve got some things to say in our Wes Anderson Roundtable.

Loren Greenblatt: I think in some ways The Royal Tenenbaums serves as a companion piece to Rushmore, where the earlier film gives us a young precocious lead bursting with talent and ambition, Anderson’s third film shows us the same kinds of people only to fast forward to show us how that talent and ambition can be beaten down and diminished.

Max O’Connell: It’s a more mature film, one that recognizes that initial success can lead to great failure.

LG: I’ve always felt that The Royal Tenenbaums was Wes Anderson’s greatest masterpiece, and it surprised me when I figured out recently that a lot of people don’t rate it so highly.

MO: It surprises me more when people don’t rank it in their top three. It’s so clearly his most personal, his most ambitious and his most formally exciting to me. It’s bizarre that there are Wes Anderson die-hards who don’t adore it the same way.

LG: It’s his first foray into this really large palette of world building in filmmaking. It’s a multigenerational New York tragedy, to some degree his version of The Godfather.

MO: More specifically, it’s his version of The Magnificent Ambersons, which it’s very consciously modeled after: the title, the downfall of a great family, and the detached narrator (Orson Welles in Ambersons, Alec Baldwin here)…

LG: And that Amberson-esque opening is one of the most arresting moments in Anderson’s carrier. It’s a prologue where we get the details of the Tenenbaum glory days along with the cracks in their façade of perfection. It starts with Royal (Gene Hackman) announcing that he and Ethel (Anjelica Huston) are splitting up to the kids. In a roundabout way, he sort of blames it on them even as he says that it wasn’t their fault. “Obviously we made certain sacrifices as a result of having children…”, cue the butler entering with a martini.

MO: It’s perfect, because kids tend to blame themselves regardless, and he has not made things any better.

LG: Something I really keyed into with this viewing was Royal and his intentions. He’s passive aggressive towards his kids because he’s intensely jealous of them. Everyone else in the family is a genius from a young age: Chas (Ben Stiller) is a real estate agent as a teen, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), whom he introduces as his “adopted daughter,” won $50,000 for a play she wrote in the ninth grade, and Richie (Luke Wilson) is a tennis champion. These kids are so bright, and the mother is also a beacon of warmth and supportiveness. I don’t think Royal felt like he was ever a part of that. He needs their love, but he needs to push them away.

MO: And I don’t think that’s ever a conscious thing for him. He doesn’t seem to totally understand how horrible he’s been to them.

LG: But at the same time, he’s consciously manipulative.

MO: Yes he is, but he doesn’t take into consideration how this has shaped his kids until late in the film. But that opening, while not my personal favorite scene in the film, is right up there. It closely models Ambersons in how much ground it covers in six minutes. You have a similar montage to the buildup of clubs in Rushmore, but in a much more melancholy way. Instead of a joke about how overcommitted our young hero is, we see of buildup of how doomed they are.

LG: And it’s scored beautifully to an orchestral version of “Hey Jude,” which is notable because Paul McCartney wrote the song to John Lennon’s son, Julian, when John abandoned him. It’s very conscious, watching Royal interact with and then abandon his kids. It’s one of several songs choices where Anderson seems to be playing extratextual notes.

 There’s this glow of the past, but also this bitterness to it that reverberates throughout the film. I always get the sense that the Tenenbaum family is almost living in exile, that there’s this magical place of happiness they could return to if only the figured out their own demons. After the prologue, we jump twenty years and see that everything the kids have done in the interim is an attempt, to some degree, to hold onto the promise they had as kids.

MO: Most of them are dressed in a slight variation of the way they dressed as kids. They’re all damaged to some degree. Margot is almost totally withdrawn emotionally, and she doesn’t respond to most of the people around her. Chas lashes out at everyone. Richie, meanwhile, is too sensitive. He’s so willing to forgive and embrace everyone in a way that’s not necessarily healthy, and whenever he is hurt, his reaction is completely without control.

LG: Royal related to Richie more than the others, took him out while he left the others behind, and that’s why Richie responds to him. He actually has a relationship with him. And he doesn’t understand the bitterness that Chas and Margot have, because he didn’t experience the same degree of alienation that they did.

MO: And it’s sad, because Richie tries to be empathetic towards everyone, even Chas, who really tears into him, but he doesn’t fully appreciate how fully hurt everyone else is in that family. Chas confronts him, saying that he’s been suckered and that whatever he’s trying to get, it isn’t worth it. Richie responds by saying that he loves him, but he also unintentionally downplays the real pain that Chas feels.

Now, there’s another major player here, who is notably not a Tenenbaum: Eli Cash, played by Owen Wilson (who served as Anderson’s co-writer for the last time and received a Best Original Screenplay nomination for his efforts), once again playing best friend to his real life brother.

LG: Here it works. For me, the characters they were playing in Bottle Rocket should have been brothers, because of the dynamic in that film. Here, the separation is more intentional. Eli “always wanted to be a Tenenbaum.” He lived in a little apartment with his grandmother, where he slept on a futon, and he’s very drawn to the Tenenbaums and their perceived encouragement. He’s not quite there in terms of their brilliance, but he tries to be. As an adult, he’s become professor and writer (just about everyone in the film has written a book other than Royal). Eli’s a third-rate Cormac McCarthy type who doesn’t get good reviews but has been very successful lately. He’s secretly in love with Margot, as are a lot of other people, most notably her husband Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray), whom she’s drifting apart from, and Richie, who notes that Margot is only his adopted sister. As the film begins, Richie has been traveling the world to get away from her.

MO: It’s interesting to see Eli looking for the kind of approval that the Tenenbaums got. He didn’t get the kind of encouragement that they got from their mother (though Royal sanded away a lot of that), and whenever Margot makes an off-handed remark about how Eli’s talents are limited, he’s really hurt. “Please stop belittling me” is one of his key lines. Moving onto another subject, I feel like this is the best cast Anderson every assembled.

LG: It has a lot of actors who don’t really get their due. Luke Wilson is fantastic as this sensitive, forlorn man, and I never understood how he didn’t become a bigger star. There’s a lot of levels. He’s very funny and warm, but remote. It’s a difficult balance to pull off.

MO: He’s frequently cast as the handsome but generic love interest, and he’s capable of so much more. We see that sometimes in stuff like Idiocracy, but not enough.

LG: Then there’s Ben Stiller, a performer I have a very contentious relationship with, because he does a lot of terrible stuff. I think he’s a very smart guy who doesn't always pick the right projects. He’s good at goofball but even in a lot of his comedic performances, he’s really good at playing abrasive, but until this point I don’t think  he’d ever played anyone quite this misanthropic and certainly didn’t again until Greenberg.

MO: Both characters bring up the neuroticisms to a pathological degree, where he lashes out at everyone around him. It’s easy to empathize with him even though he treats people terribly. Even Margot, who’s emotionally withdrawn, will defend people from Chas, as she does with Ethel’s suitor Henry Sherman (Danny Glover, perfectly understated). But Chas is an intensely lonely, intensely unhappy person, which has been exacerbated by the death of his wife in a plane crash. I’m not just thinking of his outbursts, I’m thinking of the scene where he briefly leaves his twin sons alone in his old room (they’ve moved back in with Ethel), only to re-enter about two seconds later and decide that he’s going to sleep in their room, too. It’s played for a laugh, but it’s so fucking sad to see how he has nothing else but his children, and he’s smothering them, and Wes uses the song “Look at Me” by John Lennon perfectly here. Royal warns Chas later, after he realizes what a shit he was, to go easy on his boys, because he doesn’t want Chas to end up like him for the exact opposite reasons.

LG: I think to some degree he has. He decided early on not to be his father, but he’s ended up just as bitter and vindictive, if not more so. At least Royal can be avuncular and warm in moments, even if you can’t tell if he’s being genuine. Since the death of his wife, Chas and his sons dress up in matching Adidas jumpsuits so he can pick them out of a crowd quickly, and he’s started running endless safety drills. He never feels safe, and that leads to him moving back to the Tenenbaum house. And that feeling of never being safe ties in perfectly to how a child might feel if they were raised by someone as untrustworthy as Royal.

MO: Wes Anderson wrote Royal directly for Gene Hackman, who wasn’t sure he wanted to take it because he prefers to disappear into characters…but how perfect is he here?

LG: He’s excellent. He’s retired recently, and this is easily the peak of his late-period performances which consists mostly of thrillers of varying quality (let’s ignore that his last film was Welcome to Mooseport).

MO: It’s a really important mixture of genuine charm and casual cruelty, one that another actor might overplay or, worse, underplay and try too hard to ingratiate himself to the audience. Or how about Gwyneth Paltrow, who’s received a bit of a backlash from overexposure recently, but I’ve always thought she was a talented actress. She’s frequently cast as a very charming character, even if they’re hurting on the inside (Hard Eight, Seven, Two Lovers). Here, she is against type, not even sort of hiding her unhappiness. She’s so close to being emotionally dead that she’s had a number of affairs (and an annulled marriage that no one in her family knows about), because she’s looking for anyone to connect to. It makes the way she shuts people out even sadder – her family doesn’t even know she’s smoked since she was 12.

LO: I love the black eyeliner she has. It makes her sad eyes so much more expressive, like a silent film character. Anderson also does a good job of framing her in ways that accentuate her loneliness. She’s often either to the side of everyone or in the far background compared to everyone else. The removal is a reaction to her, but it’s also a choice that she makes.

MO: She doesn’t trust anyone to not hurt her. Even from the beginning, when we see the doors to all of the children’s bedrooms, hers is the only one that’s closed.

LG: She was adopted, and Royal never let her forget it, so she never felt like she belonged. Maybe that’s why it was emotionally okay for her to embrace the feeling she has for Richie. It’s a way for her into the family, just like she’s a way into the family for Eli. It’s this very weird push-pull element.

MO: We should talk about the style of the film. Anderson really doubled down on the densely-packed anamorphic compositions, the dioramas.

LG: He’s pushing his wide angle, anamorphic diorama aesthetic harder than ever before. The Tenenbaum house is treated very much like a dollhouse visually, particularly in the opening where Anderson moves from floor to floor carefully noting the intensely manicured décor of each room. At one point in that sequence, we see young Margot building a model set for one of her plays, and we can’t help but notice the echo.

MO: And while there’s a lot of sadness, how joyous is it to watch the way the film was made?

LG: Oh, I absolutely adore it. It’s so meticulous and perfectly done. One thing I noticed about the house is…normally, especially in early color films, you paint the walls a pale color, then dress the characters in something more saturated so they pop out. Wes Anderson and a lot of other 90s directors said “fuck all that.” The Tenenbaum house is filled with saturated reds and pinks and blues, and it’s a very warm, cozy look for all the coldness within the façade. There’s also a lot of little text inserts, which we saw a bit in Rushmore, but here there’s Helvetica and Futura fonts in here. He’s moved away from that a bit in recent years, but it’s very emblematic of Anderson’s style. Those modernist fonts call attention to themselves as objects first, and parts of words second, just like Anderson’s style does.

MO: And yet, there are moments of…I wouldn’t say extreme verisimilitude, but we’ve talked about how handheld shots are an underrated part of Anderson’s style. There are two that are used as bookends of sorts, both related to Chas. The first shows him racing through his house with his kids for a fire drill that shows just how much his attempt to instill order on his life has actually thrown him into chaos. The second is at his mother’s wedding, after a stoned Eli crashes a car and almost runs over Chas’s sons. Not only is it the same style, but the same pounding drum music theme plays. It’s a nice touch that doesn’t get called out enough.

LG: Those drum parts of the scores are another underrated Wes Anderson element. Every score Mark Mothersbaugh did for him have them. Maybe Wes is a frustrated drummer?

MO: How about the framing, how it’s used as a way to hammer a joke home? Raleigh is a neurologist, and his recent subject, Dudley (Stephen Lea Sheppard) is, among other things, colorblind and dyslexic, but has an extraordinary sense of hearing. When Raleigh mentions that Dudley is color blind, Dudley is shown in a long shot down a hallway, and he overhears it and questions it, because he doesn’t realize he’s colorblind. As written, it’s kind of funny, but with those visual dynamics it’s hilarious. It doesn’t work without that framing.

LG: We talked about darkness, loneliness, and suicide, but we should stress that this is a comedy, and a very funny one. Dudley has a few other great moments, like when he points out something that’s beside the point for the rest of the scene (“there’s a dent in that cab…and another dent…and another”).

MO: There’s a bit that was played up in the trailers, but it does make me laugh – Chas mentions in a flashback that Royal stole bonds from him, to which Royal can only pause and give a nervous laugh. It’s played perfectly.

LG: There’s a montage at one point after Raleigh and Richie hire a private investigator to find out about Margot’s infidelities, and after we see a litany of men Margot has slept with (set to “Judy is a Punk” by the Ramones), and all Raleigh can say is a quiet, understated, “She smokes.”

MO: And that’s only my second favorite montage in the movie. The best for me is set to Paul Simon’s “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” in which Royal takes his grandsons out on the town for a day of recklessness. It’s so joyful, and there’s an increasing level of absurdity, starting with them running into pools or racing go-karts, leading to theft, riding on the back of a garbage truck, and watching a dogfight.

LG: That’s an interesting turning point in the film. He still has ulterior motives but it’s the first part where Royal does something that isn’t purely selfish.

MO: Yes. He tried bringing his family to his mother’s grave for the first time (Richie was the only one who was ever invited), but he botches it badly, especially as he trivializes the death of Chas’s wife with “oh, yeah, we have another body buried here.” Which is funny, but I felt terrible for laughing because he’s such a bad person.
We’ve talked about how Anderson pays tributes to his favorite films without doing it in an obvious way. He reimagines his homages. Did you see any examples?

LG: There’s three I noticed in the “Me and Julio” sequence alone. There’s a moment of them driving go-karts under elevated trains that looks like the climax of another Hackman film, The French Connection. The scene where they steal milk plays like a similar scene in Breakfast at Tiffany’s (it should be noted that there’s a bit of Blake Edwards in Anderson’s sense of framing). And there’s also a sequence of three characters jumping into a pool that’s reminiscent of The Graduate (a scene he already referenced in Rushmore the twist here is that the people jumping into the pool are happy).

MO: Two that struck me are Elia Kazan homages. One is a new version of what Kazan did for East of Eden, where James Dean was framed in a hallway to make it look very claustrophobic (using CinemaScope in a similar way that Anderson uses anamorphic framing). This is a bit of a jump, but there’s a shot of Ben Stiller on the stairs that’s somewhat similar, and this is a similar tale of generational conflict. The other is another homage to the scene in On the Waterfront where Brando confesses to Eva Marie Saint. Here, it’s a scene between Eli and Margot on the bridge, where they discuss Richie’s love for Margot. It’s not exactly the same, because instead of using a shot/reverse shot rhythm and drowned out dialogue, here we hear the dialogue and Anderson uses slow whip pans between them.

LG: It’s one of Anderson’s most interesting use of whip pans.

MO: It’s a very deliberate shift to see how their words can hurt each other even without them intending it.

LG: It’s almost like they’re playing tennis and the camera is following the ball.

MO: Speaking of Margot’s veil coming down, there’s a great two-shot of Margot and Raleigh at a key point in the film where he confronts her about her infidelities. It’s so simple, yet so effective, to see those two finally brought together and having a frank conversation about what’s going on between them without them dodging. That actually joins the “I coulda been a contender” scene from On the Waterfront as one of my favorite two-shots, because it relies on the two actors to carry the scene and let their characters finally be honest with each other.

LG: Let’s talk some more about notable uses of music. There’s a lot of really sorrowful songs here, like Nick Drake’s “Fly,” or the Velvet Underground’s “Stephanie Says.” One of my favorites comes with Richie’s arrival in New York, where he’s waiting for Margot to pick him up, and she gets off the bus in slow motion to the sound of Nico singing “These Days,” and it’s gorgeous. There’s a great reverse of the camera dollying to Richie, and the look on his face is, “yep, that’s my girl.” And these sailors walk behind him like The Beatles in the Abbey Road cover. It’s this beautifully orchestrated moment of artifice. I feel that a lot of undue emphasis has been placed recently on films needing to look and feel realistic. Shots like that make me think, “No, why are we bothering with realism? Film can do so much more!”

MO: It can be so much more expressive, just like it is here (in a shot that’s a subtle take on the bit of Cybill Shepherd in slow motion in Taxi Driver), and that moment never fails to send a chill down my spine. As for the scenes where Wes tones down the artifice, I love the shot of Royal following Ethel and lying to her, saying “I’m dying.” For the most part, it’s a single wide shot that shows Ethel going in and out of the frame as Royal changes his answer, but on “I’m dying,” there’s a very effective axial cut (or close to an axial cut) that brings us closer to Ethel but maintains an illusion of continuity, so it almost doesn't register with us. I love when he tone it down, because it makes stuff like “These Days” feel all the more powerful.

I also love how each Tenenbaum has their own theme music: Eli has some of the more coked-up rhythms of The Clash’s  “Police & Thieves” and “Rock the Casbah.” Chas has the drum music. Ethel has two Bob Dylan instrumentals. We talk about how Anderson uses left-of-field songs from greatest artists. How’s “Billy” from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid and “Wigwam” from the much-derided Self Portrait.

LG: That album isn’t his best but it’s still underrated, but that song is so joyous that every time I feel sad, I listen to “Wigwam” and I feel happy again.

MO: We need to also talk about…oh boy…”Needle in the Hay.”

LG: (heavy sigh) Gimme a second…

MO: That is still the toughest scene that Anderson has ever shot.

LG: We’re in the middle of this comedy that’s dark, but still very funny. But Richie is at his lowest point. Margot has been with so many men, none of them him, and he’s so sensitive that he’s thinking, “She’ll never look at me.”

MO: And when Richie enters the bathroom, the lighting is much darker than it’s been in the rest of the film. It goes from a warm look to a darkish blue hue, as if Ridley Scott briefly took over.

LG: He takes off his thick sunglasses for the second time in the entire film. He cuts his hair, he shaves his beard, and it’s cut in a very French New Wave style with a lot of jump cuts. And as “Needle in the Hay” plays, he decides he’s going to kill himself, and there’s a lot of blood. It’s the most unexpected and daring thing Anderson has ever done.

MO: But it’s a very well-handled tone shift for what’s one of the major fulcrums of the film, not just for how it sets up Richie’s relationship with Margot, but it’s also the point where the family starts to come together a bit, and where Royal realizes what a shit he’s been and how devastating his affect on his kids was.

LG: “Needle in the Hay” works so well that it makes you sad that the initial plan to have Elliott Smith record material specifically for the film, including a cover of “Hey Jude” for the opening, but that plan didn’t pan out due to his mounting personal issues (his death by suicide two years later doesn't make it any easier to watch).

The “Hey Jude” choice at the begging was apparently part of a larger plan to bookend the film with Beatles songs that fell through due to the difficulty of getting Beatles material which is the start of a general theme in Anderson films after this to highlight a particular artist in each soundtrack (Wes’s original choice for the ending was an alternate take of “I’m Looking Through You,” after which he moved on to the Beach Boy’s “Sloop John B” before settling on Van Morrison’s “Everyone”).

MO: Another key musical scene involves The Rolling Stones: a left-of-field choice with “She Smiled Sweetly,” followed by “Ruby Tuesday,” a big hit, both off of the Between the Buttons album.

LG: It’s a very intimate scene, the first where Richie and Margot get a real chance to be alone. It’s post-suicide attempt, and they’re being very frank with each other. It’s interesting to see two songs by the same artist used back-to-back, that’s something people don’t do often. He’s playing these songs against type. So even though Ruby Tuesday is easily the more melancholy song. The way he uses it, it becomes downright triumphant.

MO: For the record, we completely disagree on the meaning of that song’s placement. You see it as a moment of progress for Richie, now that he and Margot have acknowledged their love for each other. I see it as a moment of great uncertainty, not unlike the ending of The Graduate, because they’re unsure of how they’re going to deal with it or move forward. I also think that viewing that scene as a triumph makes the cigarette exchange between Richie and Margot, the real triumphant scene, redundant. Considering Margot’s “I think we’re just going to have to be secretly in love with each other and leave it at that, Richie” line, “Ruby Tuesday” is used perfectly to type, not against type. It’s a beautiful moment because they’re so uncertain. The song just happens to have an up-tempo rhythm that makes it a perfect segue to the next chapter, where things actually do start to get a little better for everyone.

LG: Another interesting thing about the style is the conceit that the film is a novel. Every section of the film is broken up into chapters, complete with a shot of a title page. It’s such a cute thing that goes right in with the literary New York fairytale thing, not to mention the fact that just about everyone in this film is a published author.

MO: Here’s the thing about it, though: I remember reading in a review of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou where Owen Gleiberman said that he wished that Anderson would stop having a tone of “Isn’t it ironic?” for everything.

LG: What? No…

MO: His films are so earnest that I don’t know how anyone could get that. You’ve mentioned what separates Anderson from imitators like Napoleon Dynamite is the level of empathy that Anderson allows his characters, even the minor ones, while being just removed enough to avoid wallowing like Garden State. Something that struck me this time was Dudley, who’s the jokiest character in the film, but there’s a shift that Raleigh takes towards him. In the beginning, he laughs at Dudley’s predicament. “How bizarre!” By the end, he still has a sense of humor about Dudley (“Can the boy tell time?” “Oh, my lord, no”), but he hugs Dudley closer to him. This is the kid he’s living for now, someone he can help.

LG: His characters are so well realized that we could spend the whole review psychoanalyzing these people.

MO: I can empathize with everyone on screen. It’s a real Renoir feeling. Richie is quick to forgive, but he doesn’t understand the depth of Chas’s pain, and Chas resents him because of it, not to mention because he was Royal’s favorite. The level of resentment these characters have for each other is understandable, and yet by the end we see how much they care for each other.

LG: Agreed, there’s a lot of Rules of the Game in this film (lots of hidden and unrequited love affairs between upperclass people). One of the most heartfelt moments is between Eli and Richie. Richie tries to get him into rehab, and Eli says, “I wish you would’ve done this when I was a kid.” “You didn’t have a drug problem then.” “Yeah, but it would have meant a lot to me.”

MO: The two best directors working today, for me, are Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson, and The Royal Tenenbaums has a lot in common with P.T. Anderson’s Magnolia. Both are about how what happens to people as children shape their adulthood, about their pain and loneliness, about the humanization of the people who hurt them, and how difficult it is to move on, but both films are ultimately optimistic. And you talked about that moment, but I’m always touched by everything Chas does in the final twenty minutes. First, when he goes up to Henry Sherman to say that he’s a widower too – it’s like he’s looking for a new dad. And he does finally embrace Royal, saying, “I had a rough year, dad,” the response being, “I know you have, Chazzie.” I always need a minute.

LG: Wes has these moments of empathy with these characters. It never feels fake. Sometimes it’s a bit buried because the performances are minimalistic, or the style is arch, but the more you rewatch them, the more you realize how much the emotion is there and how genuine it is.

MO: Yeah. Another example is when Royal realizes how bad his advice has been for his children, and he admits that to Richie. He wants to have done better, and that counts.

LG: “Can’t someone be a shit their whole life and repair the damage?”

MO: There are so many lines that could serve as the thesis. That’s just one of the best. And I love how the first things he can do to repair that damage is get a divorce.

LG: We need to make sure we talk about Anjelica Huston, who’s so warm and so amazing in this film. You almost wonder how it is that she and Margot never connected more, I think Margot was always going to be on the outside, but Ethel tries so hard to do good for them.

MO: Yeah. They’re messes of people, but they’d be a lot worse without Ethel.

LG: There’s something interesting that I noticed this time around. When they announce the divorce, it’s Royal by himself. I don’t think he’s doing this to take initiative. I feel like she left it to him to do this. And that’s an interesting choice, that she put it off.

MO: Why don’t we talk about the last 15 minutes, which wreck me completely. It starts with this great long crane shot that’s maybe slightly ostentatious, but essential. It moves around after the car accident at the wedding, where Eli everyone has found some solace. Eli is confessing that he’s on drugs and he needs help, but the cop booking him is a fan. Raleigh and Dudley get goofy and they get a connection. The Shermans are analyzing. Ethel is taking care of the boys. And Chas and Royal finally mend their relationship.

LG: And then, after we get through the scene where Richie and Margot embrace their odd let’s-forget-we-were-raised-as-siblings relationship, “The Fairest of the Seasons” by Nico starts. The epilogue is perfect because of how it ties Chas to Royal, the son who hated him the most turns out to be the one who’s closest to him. It’s such a perfect moment of catharsis, and the shot of Gene Hackman on the ambulance gurney, slowly looking over with the air mask on gets me every time.

MO: You talked about how Rushmore was a happy ending that nonetheless wasn’t naïve and knew that they’d still have to work through problems. That’s here, too. There’s negative stuff left behind: Margot’s play fails, Eli’s in rehab working through things but he’s lost Margot, Raleigh has Dudley but lost Margot, Richie is teaching kids, probably better adjusted than most. They have each other, so they’re going to be OK, and Royal finally made things right after being a shit his whole life. Those hurt feelings can be mended even if they can’t be totally cleared away.

LG: Then there’s the funeral, which I think is the last time Wes Anderson used slow-motion as the last shot if you include the end credits of the other movies. And it’s perfect here. My favorite detail about this funeral, because it needs a laugh for all of the somberness, is that Ari and Uzi have black jumpsuits for the funeral, and they’re firing BB guns in a salute. That’s a Wes Anderson detail if there ever was one.

MO: It’s a Wes Anderson detail, and it’s a nice throwback to Chas having been shot in the hand by Royal, showing how he’s let his anger go. And then that epitaph is perfect: “Died Pulling His Family From the Wreckage of a Destroyed, Sinking Battleship.”

LG: With “Everyone” by Van Morrison playing them out in slow-motion. It’s just…I don’t know what else I can say. I think it’s his best film, I give it A.

MO: Yeah, no contest his best, A (99).

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