Editorial: Keep the Sweat Off

photo: movie still, Luke Wilson as Richie Tenenbaum in “The Royal Tenenbaums” | Buena Vista Pictures


The Editorial: thoughts, short stories
or essays about the world of cinema

It’s clay season! So let’s talk tennis in film.

Wes Anderson is one of the most original contemporary film-makers. Such distinctive visual aesthetic has he created that you can immediately tell if it’s a Wes Anderson movie. Costumes rank very high in his visual storytelling and have the ability to reveal more about his characters and their surrounding world more than any other narrative element.

The Royal Tenenbaums is a tale of a family of faded glory still living in their genius heyday, but the story is centered around Luke Wilson’s character, Richie. The film is really about Richie, said Anderson about the role he and Owen Wilson wrote especially for Luke. “He is the hero of the movie. […] He does things as a result of which everything’s happening. He’s lying and doing the things that are making the next thing happen.”

Richie Tenenbaum is a former tennis prodigy, as we learn in flashbacks, whose career has spectacularly flopped – his meltdown on court, when he finishes the match in tears at the US Nationals, after 72 unforced errors, underhand serves, and the removal of his shoes, is a moment to remember – but he is still clinging to the prime of his success. His clothes tell us so. His costume places him firmly in the category of one of the most original characters. He still sports a retro headband, arms bands and Fila logo t-shirts, his style taking direct cue from Björn Borg’s 1970s and 1980s tennis court attire (beard and lustrous locks included), even when his tennis whites grow into a camel toned suit. “Keeps the sweat off,” comments Wes Anderson about Richie’s ever-present headband in his book-length interview with Matt Zoller Seitz. In The Royal Tenenbaums, like in all Anderson’s films, the characters wear their personalities on the outside.

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