The Royal Tenenbaums

By: Ally Dellone


An Introduction

The Royal Tenenbaums movie poster
Buena Vista Pictures

The 2001 film, The Royal Tenenbaums, is a Wes Anderson production about an upper class family of child prodigies in New York City. Each Tenenbaum child has their own special characteristic: Margot, the adopted child, is a successful playwright, Richie is a gifted tennis player and artist, and Chas is a math and business genius. For a more detailed look into each character in the family, not just the Tenenbaum youth, click here.

The movie continues with the story of the Tenenbaums as adults. Royal Tenenbaum, a divorced father, left 22 years ago and had not seen his children during that extreme amount of time. His children have all hit a slump in their careers. Richie has retired from Tennis after losing a crucial match. He is now traveling along the seas throughout the world on a boat called the Cote D’Ivoire. After the loss of his wife, Rachel, Chas becomes extremely over-protective of his two children, Uzi and Ari. Margot on the other hand, has married the writer and neurologist, Raleigh St. Clair. She completely hides everything about herself from him, locking herself in the bathroom to keep her life and her chain-smoking a secret.  After Royal is kicked out of his residence in an extravagant hotel, he finds himself in need of somewhere to live. Royal hears from his longtime friend, Pagoda, that Etheline’s coworker and friend, Henry Sherman had proposed, and they have become engaged. On hearing this news, Royal is motivated to talk to his ex-wife Etheline, who is not on good terms with Royal, as they haven’t spoken in seven years. He declares to Etheline that he is dying of stomach cancer and has six weeks until death, using this lie as a way of trying to reconnect with his children and winning over the affections of his ex-wife. Royal moves into his old home, setting up false medical equipment and Etheline calls her children back home to spend time with their “dying” father.

With a full household, much trouble is to be found. Both Margot and Chas have a hard time forgiving and reconnecting with their father, while Richie has always been closer to him. These relationships between absent father and children are problematic and cause much chaos throughout the Tenenbaum household. This purpose of this website is to explore how the role of an absent father affects the Tenenbaum family. The children of Royal Tenenbaum were abandoned physically and emotionally long before he left them. Each child had been effected differently by their father leaving them and they had experienced a traumatic event brought on by Royal’s absence.