Great Uses of Songs in Movies: Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” in The Royal Tenenbaums

Great Uses of Songs in Movies: Elliott Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” in The Royal Tenenbaums

Needle in the Hay is a perfect song for the Royal Tenenbaums, especially considering how messed up this family truly is. In the beginning it seems that things are going okay and that everything should be okay. But as the story progresses you can see the eventual downfall of each individual within the movie as the lies and the deceits start stacking up and finally reach levels that could just about cripple any family once they’re unleashed. Richie is a wreck since he loves his adopted sister Margot so much but can’t say it. Margot is cheating on her husband Raleigh with just about anyone that will have her, and Chas is just as messed up as any of them since after the death of his wife he’s become uber protective of his two boys.

Now you could probably say that each one of them has a reason to be messed up since losing your wife, loving someone but not being able to say it, and being less than faithful are indeed big stress points in life that tend to make anyone a little cuckoo. But the way they go about handling it and the lack of help they get from their mother and father at times is kind of hard to understand. The family seems to just ignore one another until it’s time to really get into something or if there’s a tragedy. Kudos for them pulling together in a crisis and realizing that it’s important to support your family, but throughout the rest of the movie it’s eye-popping to realize just how neurotic some of the main characters are.

The chaos of this movie, which is muted and quiet for the most part but still very much there, is offset wonderfully by the use of Needle in the Hay. It also is a great use with Richie as he looks absolutely strung out and at wits end as he trims his hair, his beard, and his mustache in apparent preparation to shave his face smooth and clean. But then near the end of it when he has only one clean patch of skin on his cheek he turns to the camera and says that he’s going to kill himself. Obviously he doesn’t want to wait as he takes the blade out of his razor and then slits his wrists, or some part of his arm, and proceeds to bleed out. Its only when Dudley, the test subject of Raleigh, comes into the bathroom and sees Richie lying in a puddle of blood that anyone does anything.

Eventually Richie recovers and goes back to his life, and he even professes his love to Margot. Chas becomes less concerned with keeping his kids in a bubble and starts to calm down, and even Royal, their father, begins to become a nicer person. It’s amazing what a tragedy can do sometimes, especially if it’s one that almost robs a family of one of their own. But seriously, this family is just all kinds of bonkers.

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