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When The Royal Tenenbaums premiered in theaters in 2001, I saw it not once, but four times on the big screen. That was back when the prospect of a brand new Wes Anderson film brought joy and thrill to most cinephiles, before he became mocked (unfairly, in my opinion) for his quirky, precious style.

RoyalThe story is of the self-serving, largely absent patriarch Royal Tenenbaum, turning a new leaf to save his undone “family of geniuses” from a figurative “sinking ship.” Royal’s charm and missteps stem from his approach to fixing the wreck that has become his estranged family: “I’m not talking about dance lessons. I’m talking about putting a brick through the other guy’s windshield. I’m talking about taking it out and chopping it up.” There are hiccups and bumps along the way as Royal attempts to reconnect to his grown children: the washed-up tennis champion Richie; the angry, uptight, and widowed entrepreneur Chas; and the once-notable playwright Margo, who, as Royal always points out during introductions, is adopted.

Royal Kids

In addition to his three kids and the “true-blue” mother of his children, Royal has to win over a skeptical crew of newcomers to the Tenenbaums; that proves difficult as he must allay his reputation as the abandoner, and he must check his thoughtless albeit hilarious nature at the door. For instance, he makes a valiant effort, with a ‘Royal Flair’ when meeting his motherless grandsons, Chas’ boys: “I’m sorry for your loss. Your mother was a terribly attractive woman.”

Wes Anderson examines this rather eccentric and lost family by means of dissection: he opens the family’s dwelling like a cross-sectioned dollhouse in which we can explore each character’s fastidiously maintained collections. Although we have all seen Anderson employ this aesthetic time and time over for the rest of his subsequent films, the technique was relatively new and oddly comforting when the film premiered. In The Royal Tenenbaums, in particular, it appears that the characters preserve their childhood trinkets and keepsakes in an attempt to revel in their brilliant and magnificent childhoods that unfortunately erode into disappointing and lackluster adulthoods.

f80e7bbb8a012d6940ef12708b73f5eeFurther, what seduced me was the immensely clever and surprising dialogue. The actors and the writers worked together in symbiosis to depict heartwarming sincerity, venomous resentment, abject loneliness, and matter-of-fact assertions, often simultaneously. Frequently, the actors deliver dialogue while their expressions portray the opposite of their lines, or, exhibit an arrant lack of affect. The dry, sometimes ironic, zingers are mostly delivered by Royal and family friend Eli Cash, Richie’s childhood chum and author of a newly celebrated book that revises the history of the American West. “Everyone knows Custer died at Little Big Horn. What this book presupposes is … maybe he didn’t?” Thankfully for Eli, his latest book erases the utter failure of his former, which he confesses he wrote “in kind of an obsolete vernacular.”

Eli CashTo this day I quote the film as a way to add humor to the banal and the frustrating, like when I read through my divorce papers or when I’m studying for my real estate exam or while I’m consolidating my student loans. All that drivel is written in an “obsolete vernacular,” and everyday, I want to thank Anderson (and co-writer Owen Wilson) for handing me that phrase, among others, to add levity to everyday drudgery, sporadic sadness, and rare tragedy, especially in regards to family matters. Lastly, I want to thank Anderson for sharing his obsessive compulsive visions and collections on a cinematic scale. His obsessive nature ties in with my own, and I can think of no better way to banish the unpredictabilities and disappointments of adulthood than to open a box of childhood trinkets or to settle into a Wes Anderson film.

ChateauChateau Montelena, the winery responsible for putting California on the international wine map and inspiring the movie Bottle Shock, runs an uncanny parallel to the early notoriety of the Tenenbaum children. Founded in the 1890’s, the winery, after many unremarkable and unproductive decades, was restarted and replanted in 1972 by Jim Barrett. Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay was the first American wine to win the renowned Paris Tasting in 1976. Barrett and crew peaked early, but, according to my resident sommelier Justin Chin, were soon overshadowed by the three big name wineries: Mondavi, Joseph Phelps, and Rudd Estate. To make matters worse, in the early 2000’s wine enthusiasts started to notice inconsistencies such as off-flavors, corked bottles, and musty smells, which were caused by the nasty and unwanted chemical compound, TCA. Chateau Montelena cleaned-up their wine storage facility and have been producing quality wines ever since, though they never regained the notoriety achieved during the 70’s. So be it. Quality over notoriety is always best. Plus, Chateau Montelena, like the Tenenbaum family, will always be able to reminisce over their past glories.

Try the buttery and slightly herbaceous Chateau Montelana 2010 Chardonnay. It’s the least expensive of their wines and can be found at BevMo.

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