It’s hard to believe that The Royal Tenenbaums was released over a decade ago. In my opinion Anderson’s third film has aged remarkably well and still remains the most significant of all his films. This is not to say that I consider it his best film, although it’s certainly up there, and it’s not because it was a commercial success (to this day it’s Anderson’s highest grossing film) but to me the film is important because The Royal Tenenbaums feels like the first time that we are fully immersed into Anderson’s world. And this is what make’s his films so remarkable -Anderson creates a space full of elements that are unique to the characters and the story. Each piece of the film, from the colors, to the settings, to minute details, tells us not only about the plot, but also the larger vision of who these characters are and what their lives are like.
As a film driven by distinct personalities, the look of each character seems to tell a story of who they are as people. It’s not really through dialogue or events that we begin to understand who each character is, but through their aesthetic. Richie’s ever-present head band and Fila polo express his inability to leave a tarnished tennis career behind. The Adidas track suits and matching shoes that Chas and his sons constantly wear reflect a man unable to escape his wife’s accidental death. Eli Cash’s cowboy hat and fringed jacket label him as an urbanite desperately trying to appear authentically Western. As these characters are brought together to tell the story, their clothes are a reflection of their respective situations. And then as the characters evolve throughout the movie we see them shed their track suits and head band’s, visually and emotionally leaving behind the things in life that have held them back.