Friday, March 14, 2014

Favorite Scene Friday! The Royal Tenenbaums: "Needle in the Hay"

This is no ordinary Friday - this is a Friday in French Toast Sunday's Wes AnderMarch, so it's a perfect opportunity to highlight a scene from one of Anderson's films. What to cover, though? His films feature so many quirky moments, warm characters, and lighthearted, fanciful stories.

Let's look at the scene in The Royal Tenenbaums where Richie tries to kill himself.



Man, I guess I didn't mean to take us to such a dark place this week. But this month seemed like the perfect opportunity to feature one of Anderson's most powerful scenes. The Royal Tenenbaums is about as dark as Wes Anderson gets (until he finally makes that horror film), and this scene is the center of the black hole. If you're not familiar with the film or you need a refresher, Richie (a career best Luke Wilson?) and Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray) have just discovered that Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) has been cheating on Raleigh with family friend Eli Cash (Owen Wilson). The thing is, Richie is also in love with Margot. She just happens to be his (adopted) sister.

This scene is a turning point in the film. Richie - who I feel is more or less the main character of the movie - essentially lets his pent-up, secret, taboo love for his adopted sister spill over disastrously. The way Wilson whispers "I'm going to kill myself tomorrow," is so sad and chilling and I love (?) that he immediately tries to kill himself way ahead of schedule. Also, would anyone else have been satisfied if this scene simply featured Richie cutting his hair and shaving? His transformation is kind of fascinating.

In terms of Bill Murray, this film is sort of the opposite of Moonrise Kingdom for me - I feel like he has a similar amount of screentime in both films, but in Moonrise he feels a bit wasted in the form of Mr. Bishop. I love him in Tenenbaums, and even his brief role in this scene is great, with him laying defeated in the fetal position on the couch at the beginning and then running with renewed purpose behind the stretcher with blood all over him towards the end. Lastly, Margot and Dudley's (Stephen Lea Sheppard) exchange at the end is perfect Anderson:

Margot: "Dudley! Where is he?"
Dudley: "........Who?"

I hope this scene didn't getcha down too bad. Keep in mind that everything turns out okay at the end of the film. Be sure to tune into French Toast Sunday for more Wes Anderson goodness during the month of March.

watchingourselves

P.S. The song "Needle in the Hay" really makes the scene. I had always heard that singer Elliott Smith had actually committed suicide but it looks like authorities weren't able to state whether the stab wounds that killed him were self-inflicted or not. What actually happened may be far more sinister. Read more here.

8 comments:

  1. Powerful scene indeed. The Royal Tenenbaums has such fascinating characters, especially Richie.

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    1. Shane - I'd say Tenenbaums is Anderson's best ensemble flick. Every character is amazing. Thanks for reading!

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  2. Not my favorite but I cant deny the impact that has. Great job

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    1. Vern - It's such a good scene, hard to ignore. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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  3. Great write-up of my favorite scene from any Wes Anderson film. You really nailed the tone of the scene with your post. It's the turning point of the film, truly haunting, thanks much in part to Luke Wilson's performance (which is DEFINITELY his career-best), but then made humorous with the Margot/Dudley exchange.

    ".......Who?" Haha, jesus.

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    1. Alex - It's gotta be the heaviest scene out of all of his films, rivaled only by the river scene from Darjeeling. I hope Luke works with Anderson again, he can be really great. Dudley. What a goof. Thanks for reading!

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  4. Quite depressing and hard to watch. Especially once you actually start thinking of Smith's life and how he "ended it". Sad stuff, indeed.

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  5. Dan - It's definitely an unpleasant scene, made creepy and more unpleasant by the real story behind the song. Thanks for reading and commenting!

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