Personal Trauma and Fatherly Absence

Royal’s emotional absence caused some personal trauma in his children’s lives. Each child was, again, affected differently, which caused them to react in different ways.


RICHARD TENENBAUM

Like stated previously, Richie had a solid relationship with his father in his childhood. When Royal returned back into Richie’s life, he accepted his father with open arms especially when hearing how he only had a “few weeks left to live”. Upon finding that Royal was indeed lying about his terminal illness, Richie was obviously both upset and disappointed. This lead him into a downward spiral. Soon after the news, he found that his adopted sister, Margot, had been having an affair with his best friend since childhood, Eli Cash, and Richie had always loved Margot (yes, there is an incest plot in the movie, but it’s okay if she’s adopted…right?). Richie ends up attempting suicide, but survives. This brings his family together finally, and we start seeing a bit of compromise between other characters during this time.

MARGOT TENENBAUM

Margot leads a very secret life and there is a lot about her that her family does not know about. One example of her extreme secrecy is when she runs away as a teenager to find her birth parents. She finds them and discovers that they are very rural people who tend mostly to their farm. Her birth father asks her to put a piece of wood up for him to chop, so she does. With her hand still on the wood, her birth father swings the ax and cuts the wood, her finger coming clean off with it. This traumatic event in Margot’s life is symbolic for the moment where she decides that she will no longer return to see her birth parents, and accepts herself as a Tenenbaum (Gooch 26).

Although Margot accepts her adoptive father into her life, Royal does not exactly reciprocate. As mentioned before, he continues throughout the movie to introduce Margot as his adopted daughter, not verbally accepting her into the family.

CHAS TENENBAUM

Chas and Royal’s relationship had always been rocky. Chas experienced a few traumatic events in his lifetime. As a genius of the business universe, he made a lot of money. Chas always saved his money, like the financial prodigy that he was. Royal noticed his son was saving up a lot of money, so he began stealing it over time. Chas was clearly not very happy about this, so he had his father disbarred for stealing. Royal served time in prison and could no longer be a lawyer, hence how he came to be kicked out of his hotel many years later.

Chas also experienced a very personal traumatic event as an adult – the loss of his wife Rachel in a plane crash. Royal never consoled his son or showed any remorse, which caused Chas to become extremely distant from his father. He sheltered his children, Uzi and Ari, and had them help out with his business in their free time. Chas did not want them to spend any time with their grandfather or even meet him at all. Chas tried to protect his kids from Royal’s behaviors, so they would never have to experience what he went through as a child.