Royal Tenenbaums [2001]

In a fitting follow-up to Rushmore, writer-director Wes Anderson and cowriter-actor Owen Wilson have crafted another comedic masterwork that ripples with inventive, richly emotional substance. Because of the all-star cast, hilarious dialogue, and oddball characters existing in their own, wholly original universe, it's easy to miss the depth and complexity of Anderson's brand of comedy. Here, it revolves around Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), the errant patriarch of a dysfunctional family of geniuses, including precocious playwright Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), boyish financier and grieving widower Chas (Ben Stiller), and has-been tennis pro Richie (Luke Wilson). All were raised with supportive detachment by mother Etheline (Anjelica Huston), and all ache profoundly for a togetherness they never really had. The Tenenbaums reconcile somehow, but only after Anderson and Wilson (who costars as a loopy literary celebrity) put them through a compassionate series of quirky confrontations and rekindled affections. Not for every taste, but this is brilliant work from any perspective. --Jeff Shannon

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