Thursday, April 23, 2009


Watching Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums again, I think I put my finger on the exact comic tone of the movie: it's that combination of absurdity and sentimentality we find in the novels of John Irving. In fact, Tenenbaums probably captures the Irving tone better than any of the Irving adaptations I've seen--perhaps even better than The Cider House Rules. If I were asked to make a list (a few months premature) of the best movies of the 00s, I'd include Tenenbaums, Adaptation, There Will Be Blood, Letters From Iwo Jima, O Brother Where Art Thou, Gosford Park, Mulholland Drive, Amelie, Fahrenheit 9/11, Gangs of New York, Amores Perros, and doubtless a few from '08 and '09 that I haven't seen yet. A tentative Top Eleven list, as absurd as any other. Tenenbaums impressed me even more on this second viewing as an especially rich film, one with enough interesting characters and situations for at least three ordinary movies. And that's undoubtedly another thing that reminds me of Irving: the movie is novelistically rich. Specifically, it's Dickensian in its wealth of eccentric characters and Irvingesque in its combination of sentimentality and dark absurdity. The climactic car crash is an especially Garpian touch.

1 comment:

Mike V. Orrock said...

Damn you are right. Apropos of nothing, I just making the comparison now, and happy to find someone had also made the connection and thought about it.

Another similarity comes to min : their attention to detail.

I always remember this succinct first description of Jenny in Garp:

"She was an athletic-looking young woman who always had high color in her cheeks; she had dark, glossy hair and what her mother called a mannish way of walking (she swung her arms), and her rump and hips were so slender and hard that, from behind, she resembled a young boy. In Jenny's opinion, her breasts were too large; she thought the ostentation of her bust made her look "cheap and easy."