Is there a director whose work is more instantly recognizable than Wes Anderson? The American director garnered considerable mainstream attention after the wonderful The Grand Budapest Hotel (which won four Academy Awards in 2014), but Anderson has been a staple of independent cinema for some time now. Back in 2001, Anderson made his third feature film, The Royal Tenenbaums, which arrives this week on Blu-ray courtesy of the Criterion Collection. The film established Anderson as a considerable force, assembling a prestigious cast (including Gene Hackman, Angelica Huston, Bill Murray, and Danny Glover) with Anderson’s unique style and vision to create this quirky exploration of a family in crisis.
Chas, Margot and Richie Tenenbaum are all miraculous childhood prodigies. Chas possesses an exceptional understanding of finance at a young age, Margot is a celebrated playwright, and Richie is a junior tennis champion. Unfortunately, their prodigious status has all but vanished two decades later, as a family life chock-full of disaster has seemingly eroded any and all potential the esteemed Tenenbaum family once had.
Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson’s script hurtles along at breakneck pace as it establishes the wonderfully thorough world of the Tenenbaum’s. The film’s set design is almost exhausting at first, as every inch is crammed with details. But each and every part of the frame has a purpose that work to explain characters’ motivations, which really allows the audience to connect with a particularly bizarre family, which is no easy task.
It’s worth noting that Anderson is not for everyone, and his bold, off-kilter sensibilities are not for everyone. That being said, his films contain such unique and compelling universes, and despite their complexities, feel effortlessly watchable. The Royal Tenenbaums is one of Anderson’s finest films, and while the third and final act cannot quite keep up the momentum of the first two, the film is a hugely original, enthralling watch.
The Criterion Blu-ray is packed with an impressive array of special features. Leading off is the commentary by Wes Anderson himself. Like Anderson’s mise-en-scene, the track is loaded with facts about the shooting, Anderson’s experience working with the actors, his influences, and so much more. It is an absolute treat for fans of the film and director to hear such a detailed commentary, and it is one of the major highlights on the disc. There is a lovely gallery of behind-the-scenes photography, as well as a lot of the artwork featured in the film. One of the more peculiar yet fascinating additions to the disc is The Peter Bradley Show, a parody of the Charlie Rose show, that features interviews with several of the bit actors in the film. Also included on the Blu-ray are short interviews with eight of the principal actors, deleted scenes, and more.
Ultimately, one of Andersons best films gets a strong treatment on Blu-ray thanks to Criterion. The digital transfer, supervised by Anderson, is beautiful, and really allows the film’s wide array of colour to shine through, and the 5.1 DTS-HD audio soundtrack is wonderfully balanced, and allows the terrific musical choices to have extra power. This is an impressive release, and a great choice for fans of Wes Anderson and independent cinema.