When Margot says of her first husband, "I met him in the ocean, he came out to me in a canoe," you know this is one weird family.
When the adopted Margot Tenenbaum, played by Gwyneth Paltrow distances herself from her family by saying, "It's okay, we're not actually related," she reflects the feeling of the father, Royal (Gene Hackman), and the entire clan, who spin like planets outside their family but strangely also deeply a part of it. When she says of her first husband, "I met him in the ocean, he came out to me in a canoe," you know this is one weird family.
"The Royal Tenenbaums" is Wes Anderson's lyrical amd brilliant homage to all the dysfunctional families of America. The characters are uniformly eccentric, like Royal, who fakes dying to get back with his family, and his son Richie, played by Ben Stiller, who in his brilliant business teens expropriated his home from dad. The dislocation of each member is best expressed in their uniformly low-key reaction to Royal's news of his impending death.
Writers Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson have crafted a family like and unlike the rest of us. For fathers, it is a confirmation that the distance we sometimes feel is not so unusual, especially those of us who have spawned an eccentric writer like my "D Girl" daughter or my very independent and sometimes ruthless business kids. When a neighbor wishes he were a Tenenbaum, Royal wishes he were, too. That's funny and poignant, a cry of laughter from all of the fathers of the world who need one more try at getting it right.