The Royal Tenenbaums is the ultimate Wes Anderson movie. Anderson is most well known for making dark(-ish) comedies that are fast-paced. Although I could have picked literally any of the Anderson movies and obsessed over their soundtracks, I had to choose this one. Each song in this movie is handpicked to fit the scene. Its unique soundtrack makes this movie special.
Anderson is very eccentric in his taste. All of the choices he makes during the directing process are on purpose. These choices can leave you confused on why you feel the way you do towards a scene or highlight a scene that may seem insignificant. The characters’ dialogue can sometimes come off very obtuse, so he uses music and camera angles as tools to tell a story without speaking many words.
This soundtrack totally rocks. It’s full of 60’s and 70’s pop/rock oldies that you’ll wanna listen to on repeat. It also has pretty awesome versions of classic songs you will recognize.
The Beatles – Hey Jude
In this part of the movie, the narrator is talking about the great success of Tenenbaum family. I love the way they introduce the children with the classical version of this song. It turns into The Beatles’ version when the narrator begins the story of the family coming together for the first time in many sad years after the father moves out of their family home.
“Hey Jude” is such an uplifting song; its lyrics tell us not to be down and that everything is going to be okay. The scene is portraying such a different feeling. You are waiting for the imminent dropping of the ball.
Nico – These Days
This scene is what comes to mind when I think of this movie. Margot is a complicated character, full of repressed guilt and quiet anxiety. This song really reveals Margot’s emotions. We can see her candidly and genuinely. The lyrics can directly relate to her. “I don’t do too much talking these days”, sings Nico while Margot ascends from the Greenline bus to see Richie for the first time in many years. The sound of Nico’s voice and the guitar is melancholy and affectionate, just like Margot’s character. She is almost totally stripped of her intimidatingly hard front. Vulnerability is sensed, and you started to see the comfort she has with Richie that she doesn’t have with anyone else.
Bob Dylan – Wigwam
This is one of those overlooked scenes that stands out a bit more with help from the soundtrack. Etheline is hesitant to say yes to Henry’s proposal because she has a family and a complicated relationship with her ex-husband. Henry is trying to tell her that he is worth the possible complication. The song comes on when they both sort of revert back to a childlike innocence. She reveals her true source of nervousness and they kiss for the first time, like kids. It quickly switches to a scene with Ari and Uzi (Chaz/Ben Stiller’s kids) working out like adults would and meeting Royal for the first time. The song is so perfectly placed with some subtle but important moments. It shows two relationships that are growing.
Elliott Smith – Needle in the Hay
This part in the film is where the family comes together. They realize they need to be there for Richie, who made it very obvious that he was going to attempt suicide. “Needle in the Hay” could not be a more perfect song for this moment. Maybe it doesn’t quite reveal Richie’s true thoughts like the song “These Days” does for Margot. But it does a pretty damn good job of telling everyone watching that this guy simply doesn’t feel he can be himself because of his obsession with Margot. Richie always felt responsible for her and truly lost it when he found out about her promiscuity. This song exudes the feeling of being lost and out of control.
The Velvet Underground – Stephanie Says
Finally, Royal admits he’s a tool and accepts Richie’s love for Margot. His childhood bird, Mordecai (who we saw in the first scene), comes back to him just like he had trained it to do, but he never thought it’d happen. He notices the bird’s feathers are white from a long, stressful journey. Oddly similar to the major transfer Richie made, right? There is some hope restored in the family.
This long twisted movie is made monumental by its awesome soundtrack, perfect for a rainy day in autumn.