Royal Jest

Does Wes Anderson's new film, The Royal Tenenbaums, seem familiar? Why not ask David Foster Wallace?

Royal Jest

Critics have pointed to a number of influences -- ranging from J.D. Salinger's Glass family to Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons -- in UT alum Wes Anderson's new film, The Royal Tenenbaums (co-written with another Longhorn, Owen Wilson). But could the real influence be David Foster Wallace's sprawling, 1,079-page novel Infinite Jest? Where the 1996 novel and the film converge are their remarkably similar depictions of crazy but brainy families: Infinite Jest's Incandenza clan and the Tenenbaum kith and kin. See for yourself:

Infinite Jest: The Incandenzas are an eccentric family of geniuses who live in Boston.

The Royal Tenenbaums: The Tenenbaums are an eccentric family of geniuses who live in New York.

Infinite Jest: Patriarch Dr. James O. Incandenza is described on page 63 of the novel as "tall, bespectacled, domineering."

The Royal Tenenbaums: Patriarch Royal Tenenbaum (as played by Gene Hackman) is tall, bespectacled, and domineering.

Infinite Jest: Dr. Incandenza is a once-brilliant avant-garde filmmaker who burned out early and committed suicide at age 54.

Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum
Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum

The Royal Tenenbaums: Royal Tenenbaum is a once-brilliant litigator who burned out early and was disbarred and even did some jail time.

Infinite Jest: Dr. Incandenza's wife, Dr. Avril Incandenza, is a successful academic who fends off many suitors after Dr. Incandenza's death.

The Royal Tenenbaums: Mr. Tenenbaum's wife, Etheline Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston), is a successful archeologist who fends off many suitors after Royal deserts the family.

Infinite Jest: A member of the Incandenza family, Hal Incandenza, is a tennis prodigy.

The Royal Tenenbaums: A member of the Tenenbaum family, Ritchie Tenenbaum (by Luke Wilson), is a tennis prodigy.

Infinite Jest: A character named Gately, who is not a member of the Incandenza family but lives nearby, is in rehab for marijuana addiction.

The Royal Tenenbaums: A character named Eli Cash (Owen Wilson), who is not a member of the Tenenbaum family but lives nearby, is addicted to marijuana, and diverts an attempted intervention that would have put him in rehab.

Sure, it might not be enough to grant Wallace screen credit, but it might have at least merited him a cameo! Wallace could have played himself, in full-throttle rant mode, on a panel with Cash at a symposium on "Surprising Coincidences Between Literary Fiction and Studio Films."

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest, The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson, The Magnificent Ambersons, J.D. Salinger

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