People often comment that life is a journey filled with difficulties, obstacles, challenges, and joys, and it is how a person deals with their life’s challenges that makes them strong and unique human-beings. Wes Anderson, the director of The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), understands about life’s hardships with all its up and down challenges. He also knows about hidden strength and the human ability to overcome insurmountable difficulties when one has the faith and courage to live life positively. The leading character in Anderson’s movie, Royal Tenenbaum, is the character who undergoes a life altering experience, an epiphany, and comes out at the end of the movie as a new and different person, one who now has empathy for other people, even his own family.
The only character in the movie who openly expresses his opinion of Royal is Chas, Royal’s eldest son, who is also going through his own life altering experience. When a person has a series of set-backs or negative events and they reach a place they feel is “rock bottom”, they hopefully realize this and understand their situation; possibly they may regret the faults and mistakes they have made earlier; then if they are strong they struggle to find the courage to change, and if they are lucky even reverse some of their former terrible mistakes.
At the beginning of the movie, Royal is presented as a selfish, self-centred, self-absorbed and even corrupt individual who unfortunately is a father of three grown children; while Chas, his eldest son, is completely the opposite as he is presented as a serious, smart, and hardworking individual; both of these men experience a life altering situation. Royal has reach “rock bottom” but has brought his own troubles upon himself, while Chas, through no fault of his own, has to accept his emotional “rock bottom” fate and cope with life’s tragedies.
When his business fails Royal has to face some hard facts, he feels like a personal and social failure because he realizes he has no friends, and his family does not want to know he even exists; this is a very difficult truth to face for any person, to feel that they have lost the love and respect of those who are supposed to be their nearest and dearest. He takes the initiative to contact his family members, at first when he hears of the remarriage of his former wife Ethel. Royal lies to get their pity and understanding, knowing that he has not earned it.
Royal does not really understand his situation in a positive way; he is corrupt and this is discovered by his family, who have believed his lies. Royal tries to explain when he says, “Look. I know I’m the bad guy on this one, but I just want to say that the last six days have been the best six days of, probably, my whole life.” Royal is not a very nice human-being because he sees nothing wrong with using people.
While Chas, on the other hand, is nothing like his father; he is intelligent and has matured at an early age. He was always interested in business and a great deal of his education was done at home by his mother Ethel. He is the most successful among the three siblings as he is a genius in international finance. Over the history of the family, Chas sued his father twice and had him disbarred because of the ‘bonds’ his father stole from Chas’ safe deposit box, when Chas was fourteen. Furthermore, Chas has been constantly in conflict with his father since childhood, ever since Royal shot a BB gun between Chas` knuckles, Chas at the time, asks his father, “What are you doing?
We are on the same team!” Royal replies, “there are no teams” as he wants to let Chas know he must be independent from an early age, in other words he is on his own. This is a very symbolic event in both their lives as it represents an issue of trust between father and son that is never resolved. It can clearly be seen that there is a contrast between the two men; Royal is selfish, inconsiderate, and uses his family; he has always made negative comments about his children, while Chas, clearly more intelligent, has empathy even for his father when Royal hits “rock bottom”.
Royal and Chas have not had an ideal father son relationship and it takes time for Royal to learn he must earn his family’s love and for Chas to cope with his grief over Rachel situations; this takes courage by both men; it will also take understanding from each of them to see the faults and mistakes they have both made.
As the movie and story progresses, Royal does not yet experience positive growth and change in his personality because he is still lying about his situation; while Chas, loses his wife Margot, and experiences neurotic, compulsive, and bizarre behaviour that is destructive to both him and his family. Royal is in shock when he loses his business and has to live in a hotel as well he discovers he has no friends and his family really do not want to know him at all. He pretends he is dying to get their attention and compassion.
Royal is a human-being who manipulates other people to get what he wants. Royal is allowed back into Chas’ house and life, while there he teaches Chas’s sons to have a little recklessness in their lives. Royal is kicked out of Chas’ house when the family realizes that he faked his own sickness and is not really ill at all. Richie, says to Royal “Dad, you were never dying.” Royal replies, “But I’m gonna live”.
The importance of this conversation is that his son Richie discovers his father is not dying of cancer, and Royal says to him I know you were worried I was going to die, but now you should be happy I am going to live. During this time Chas has grown to be very cautious of his surroundings due to the plane crash involving his wife Rachel. He is now a single father and responsible for both of his sons Ari and Uzi who are around ten years old; both boys help their father in his office.
Chas is very concerned about his kids being alert after their mother dies and practices such things as fire drills in the middle of the night. He is clearly becoming neurotic; exhibiting compulsive and bizarre behaviour; in fact, he decides to leave the house as he believes it is unsafe, and he and the children go to his mother Ethel’s house. Chas has strong memories of Royal not being the kind of father he wanted and he hopes to not make the same mistake.
However, as time passes, Chas notices that his father is seeking redemption for his actions resulting from Chas` childhood; this leads Chas to slowly begin to trust Royal again. It takes time for both men to realize and understand their current situations; and for each of them to see and regret the faults and mistakes they have made earlier in their lives.
Both Royal and Chas have the opportunity, before it is too late to reverse some of their former terrible mistakes. Royal is successful in finding his humanity as he becomes a caring and thoughtful person who begins to recognize his responsibilities; while Chas comes to see this change in his father and begins to develop a respect for him, as well Chas begins to relax and have fun with his two sons. Royal develops some understanding when he says to his former wife, Ethel, “I wanted to thank you for raising our children by the way,” as he knows he has been an absent parent himself.
By the end of the movie, Royal is a caring person who has a sense of humour; he is kind and thoughtful about other people and does care about his family at the end of the movie. In the end they begin to care about him. Royal explains to Richie, “I just wanted to prove I could pay back my dues or what not.” Another example, is when Royal looks everywhere for a new dog when Chas’s sons’ dog dies in a car accident.
Royal does changes for the better; he has learned what it is to be a failure in both business and as a father, but he tries to redeem himself in their eyes at the end. Chas changes through loss and grief over the death of Rachel and becomes obsessive with the personal safety of his sons. When Chas sees his father change and become more humane – and later when he sees his father die – Chas becomes less neurotic and spends time having fun with his kids. Chas watches his father, Royal, die in the ambulance, of a heart attack, and this also changes him. Eli a friend of Chas’ says to him “I need help,” and Chas replies, “So do I.”
This reveals the growth in his character as he has learned about himself, life, and his family during this time. Chas knows that life must not be lived selfishly. Living a selfish life is living a lonely life; Royal discovers he does not want to be lonely, and Royal also discovers unconditional love – something every parent must have towards their children. The human experience the director wants to show in this movie is that when a person reaches rock bottom they realize and possibly regret the faults and mistakes they have made in their lives and find the courage to change them if they can and reverse some of the former mistakes.
Life is filled with obstacles and challenges; it is how a person deals with and faces those obstacles and challenges, which makes them the truly unique person they are. It takes courage, introspection, and humility to change a destructive lifestyle into a positive lifestyle. Nevertheless, for director Wes Anderson change is possible and the idea that everyone, however bad, is redeemable if given the chance and the opportunity to reverse earlier thinking and actions. Anderson reveals in his contemporary movie, The Royal Tenebaums that doing the right thing is important because good deeds and actions will always outweigh bad deeds and actions.
For Anderson the key motivating factor in making this movie is the opportunity to show growth in the main characters Royal and Chas. What do they learn about themselves and life in general? This is the question Anderson feels is important for fathers and sons to know in the 21st century.
The answer, of course is, that if a person wants people to care about them then they must show equal thought and care for others; that living a selfish life is living a lonely life. In this story, the viewer discovers the unconditional love a parent has for a son, and a son has to a father – even if their relationship is broken for many years, it can be easily mended with love. If one loves a person close to them, then they should hold that person dear and close till the very end, so that one will never have any regrets.