True film aficionados always look forward to the end of the year. Increasingly, studios are holding back the best movies until November and December, forcing most film junkies to suffer through the dregs the remainder of the year.Writer/director Wes Anderson is a filmmaker that has a distinct voice in modern-day Hollywood, when films are often reduced to so many explosions and digital effects. His latest effort, The Royal Tenenbaums, is a subtle masterpiece that ranks among the best films of the year. Those audiences that discovered one of 1998’s underrated gems, Rushmore, will instantly feel at home in the slightly skewed universe of the Tenenbaum family. The film is densely structured, akin to a novel. It opens with an extended flashback (narrated by Alec Baldwin) focusing on the early years of the three prodigal Tenenbaums: Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), the brooding playwright; Chas (Ben Stiller), the high-strung investment banker and Richie (Luke Wilson), a burned-out former tennis champion. Their mother Etheline (Anjelica Huston) and father Royal (Gene Hackman) separate but never quite divorce. This has a profound effect on all three Tenenbaum children, nearly all of who loathe their boorish father. After setting the stage, The Royal Tenenbaums arrives in the present to find Margot trapped in a loveless marriage to psychologist Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray); Chas mourning the loss of his wife and keeping a tight leash on his children Ari (Grant Rosenmeyer) and Uzi (Jonah Meyerson) while Richie yearns for Margot and deals with his childhood friend turned successful cowboy novelist Eli Cash’s (Owen Wilson) burgeoning drug problem. Royal, desperate to rekindle a relationship with his estranged children, concocts a scheme that allows him back into the Tenenbaum house and causes all three children to move back in. Their journey towards understanding and accepting their father forms the core of The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson and co-writer/star Owen Wilson have fashioned a film that is unlike anything playing in theaters currently. The witty sensibility, a killer soundtrack that is used to great effect throughout the movie and delightful characters are fast becoming Anderson’s hallmark. Building upon Rushmore and his debut feature, Bottle Rocket, Anderson is a visionary of modern cinema with a style like no other director working today. The cast is exemplary from top to bottom with the standouts being Hackman as the crude Royal and Luke Wilson as the confused, desperate Richie. The production design by David Wasco is incredible to behold, with every frame of the film literally crammed with subtle touches.The Royal Tenenbaums will not be for all tastes. Those who loved Rushmore will probably adore this film. Those who may not have heard of Wes Anderson will discover, if they take a chance, that The Royal Tenenbaums is a film fit for a king.