Posted by: dougery | April 5, 2011

Go-To Movie: The Royal Tenenbaums

Last week I was sick. And not in the slight tickle of a sore throat or upset stomach kind of sick. Last week I had the flu. Something I haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing in 5 years. Since I have spent those years working in retail I deemed it good policy to get a flu shot as constant interaction with the mundy public increases one’s chances of winding up on the receiving end of someone else’s germ-share. Here in the hill country where the horses out number the humans and I no longer work in the public sphere I figured PSHAW to the flu shot. It was a mistake.

Last Saturday I got a twinge. A twinge of something not right. 24 hours later I was a crumpled mass of shivering aches that could not get warm no matter how many blankets I piled on the bed. Monday I slept 18 hours. Tuesday I felt better but my eyes were like marbles that had been dropped in honey, fished out and then dropped a second time on the beach. Wednesday I made the idiotic decision to return to work where I spent most of the day with a kleenex in one hand and a bottle of Gatorade in the other. Thursday was Sunday all over again only this time spent at work trying desperately to catch up on rapidly nearing deadlines. Friday I crashed and spent at home, using nuclear grade decongestants and antihistamines to annihilate any all remaining vestiges of influenza.

It was also Opening Day for my MLB team, a day i look forward to each year with the fervor of a child anticipating Christmas morning. The fact that the flu, the diabolical villain of this piece, robbed me of my Opening Day is the real tragedy here. or perhaps it is my not-so-subtle descent into emotional and physical infancy while sick, something that my wife was forced to deal with for an entire week. I think I did my best to not be too needy but it is hard to remember everything correctly when you have a debate with your cat on the subject of historical materialism while high as a kite on meds.

One thing I do recall, on Thursday, the worst day, was that I asked my wife to scrounge around for our DVD of the Royal Tenenbaums. Even though we moved in 6 months ago our DVDs are still all piled up in boxes due to dire lack of bookcases. That film is for me my “go-to move” for when I’m sick. The reasons for this are plentiful:

a) Alec Baldwin’s narration is like the aural equivalent of a Hall’s mentholated cough drop. It pours in your ears and just soothes.

b) Gene Hackman’s gambit, the whole “I’m dying but not really” is a psychological boon. I might feel terrible while watching, I may be sure my body is disintegrating and I’ll soon be no more than an empty husk, but this is not really the case. As the Baumer notes: “But Dad, you were never really dying.” Royal responds, “But I’m going to live!”

c) The colors of the sets, chapter headings, clothing… it’s all in pastels and primary colors and while I can’t say I watched much of the movie, in my mind I could picture it readily enough and in my mind the colors were gorgeous and peaceful.

d) Wildcat.

e) Mark Mothersbaugh’s score is inspired and Wes uses it alongside pieces like the Charlie Brown Christmas Special song, and Neko, and Elliot Smith. Again, very comforting, all of that. Even the excitable punk songs that follow Eli Cash everywhere he goes are somehow relaxing.

f) Dalmatian mice.

g) Margot’s dresses and eyeliner and virtually frozen facial expressions and delivery.

h) The fact that the movie is funny but not LOL funny. It makes you smile on the inside but doesn’t force you to laugh, which would have hurt. A lot.

i) Something in the theme of genius brought down to the level of mediocrity. Or the thought that maybe none of them were geniuses at all but it didn’t matter because everyone got to write a book anyway.

j) Danny Glover, Bill Murray and Luke Wilson’s voices. They aren’t Alec Baldwin but they also aren’t Gilbert Gottfried.

k) The fact that I once fell asleep to this movie every night in a row for 3 and half weeks. Back in grad school I would do this sort of thing to circumvent the loneliness of living alone in a studio apartment. It was like dorming again, only this time with the folks from Gosford Park, or Mr. Show and yes for almost a whole moth, the Royal Tenenbaums.

Watching the movie made me feel better on a variety of different levels and it is not the first time I’ve been drawn to it when sick. Hopefully I’m not alone here. Hopefully you all have a “go-to move” when you are ill.

Reading: Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie.


  1. Moonstruck is my sick-movie. I’ve seen it so many times that even if I’m only partially awake and have my eyes closed, I can tell what part it’s on by the music. Also my BF hates it, so being at home sick alone is a great time to watch it.

  2. Lord of the Rings – the Extended Versions… one after the other, after the other…

    I find the score comforting and it as close as a person can get to crawling into a book and going to sleep. I know that I can close my eyes and I will see the movie in my head anyways, and if I do fall asleep, I will wake knowing exactly where I am in the plot anyways!

    The BBC Pride and Prejudice is a close second.


  3. @Babs, you are going to have some fine company when Lara reads this. She toggles between P & P and Ann of Green Gables when she is sick. I suppose her LotR would be watching the Harry Potter movies.

    This all reminds me I should prolly find some deep discounted LotR box-set, I really did enjoy those movies. Now that they are slightly less in vogue this shouldn’t be too hard to find.

    @ KAO, Moonstruck? My male mind has no idea what that even refers to.

  4. @Babs, me too!

  5. @ Babs–Just one more reason we should have grown up together 🙂

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