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The Royal Tenenbaums: When Living the Lie Goes Right

There are many works of fiction about people telling lies for so long that they start to believe them. These stories range from folks like Walter White putting on the costume of a villain only to realize that the role feels a bit too comfortable, to the cipher protagonist of Avatar, who spends so much time in his alien body that he decides he belongs with The Smurfs. Most of the time, these shifts are treated as triumphant awakenings or operatic betrayals. But few are as soft, simple, or sweet as when Royal Tenenbaum, in the film that bears his name, lives up to the lie he’s spun — that can be a better man.

When Royal (Gene Hackman) tells his pseudo ex-wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston) that he’s dying and wants to reconnect with his family, it’s a canard. Not only is Royal as healthy as a man who drinks, smokes, and eats three cheeseburgers a day can be, but his conciliatory gestures were merely a front to (a.) worm his way back into the Tenenbaum family homestead after getting kicked out of the hotel where he’d been living for the last twenty years and (b.) ward off Etheline’s suitor, Henry Sherman (Danny Glover).

But the crux of the movie comes once Henry has unraveled Royal’s deceit and confronts him in front of the whole family, including Royal’s children: broken businessman Chas (Ben Stiller), gloomy scribe Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), and washed up tennis pro Richie (Luke Wilson). Royal doesn’t bother denying the accusations, but in one last attempt to manipulate his loved ones, he turns to the family and says, “Look. I know I’m the bad guy on this one, but I just want to say that the last six days have been the best six days of, probably, my whole life.” A strange expression suddenly creeps onto his face, and The Narrator (Alec Baldwin) says, “Immediately after making this statement, Royal realized that it was true.”


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The Simpsons – Moonshine River (s24e01) | The Andrew Review


“I’m not gay. I’m not anything yet.” Bart Simpson’s nerdly friend Martin said those words in a Season 16 episode and reminded us that the children of Springfield have had a surprisingly robust romantic life for a pack of eight-to-ten year olds. Very few cartoon characters age, and for most animated shows, that’s not much of a problem. But when the audience has been watching a show’s adventures for more than two decades and yet the characters technically haven’t aged a day, a certain disconnect develops.

That’s why it’s a little strange that the premise of The Simpsons Season 24 premiere, “Moonshine River,” is a wistful look back at Bart’s halcyon, prepubescent loves. We’ve seen the characters on The Simpsons have a sizable number of adventures and go through a healthy dose of character development in the 500+ episodes the show has aired so far. Yet the status quo is supposed to be roughly the same as when the series started.

Granted, the blink and you miss it cameos from Sarah Michelle Gellar (Gina from “The Wandering Juvie”), Natalie Portman (Darcy from “Little Big Girl”), Anne Hathaway (Jenny from “The Good, the Sad, and the Drugly”), and Sarah Silverman (Nikki from “Stealing First Base”) portend that this episode was not meant to be a particularly deep look back at Bart’s nascent yet prolific love life. But it’s still a bit odd to watch Bart reminisce about his collection of old flames as a wee fourth-grader.


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