A while later, I watched The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson’s follow-up to Rushmore. I’d heard very good things about it – quirky, idiosyncratic, funny. I didn’t really enjoy it. I found it a cold, sterile watch, in which a group of implausible characters did unlikely things without any real wit or empathy. It was a film without warmth or humanity. I started to wonder what was wrong with me, that I wasn’t enjoying these acclaimed films by someone working on the fringes of populist cinema, where I naturally belong.
A few years on, and I watched The Darjeeling Limited, another Wes Anderson film. I hadn’t heard many good things about it, but I figured since I hadn’t really enjoyed the ones I had, maybe I would start to understand why people so rated him. I didn’t enjoy it at all. I found it a cold, sterile watch, in which a group of implausible and incredibly irritating characters did entirely unrealistic things without the merest hint of wit or empathy. It was a film without warmth or humanity, and it made me wonder if it wasn’t me at fault after all, but Wes Anderson.
Time passed, and I heard glorious reviews of another Wes Anderson film, Moonrise Kingdom. Not only quirky, idiosyncratic and funny, but also warm and touching. Aha, I thought – he has realised what has been missing from his films and put it right. I hated it. I found it a cold, sterile watch, in which ludicrously artificial characters did absurd things in a world entirely devoid of wit or empathy. It was a film so empty of warmth or humanity it made me question whether Wes Anderson is actually a sentient being. I realised it wasn’t me at all, it is entirely Wes Anderson.
Which brings us to The Grand Budapest Hotel. Everyone loved this one. Widespread critical acclaim, typically like this, from Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter:
In a very appealing if outre way, its sensibility and concerns are very much those of an earlier, more elegant era, meaning that the film’s deepest intentions will fly far over the heads of most modern filmgoers.
How I despise that sort of review – “if you don’t get it, it’s because you’re too stupid to”. (And yes, I say that sort of thing about music all the time, and it’s one of the many things I simultaneously like and loathe about myself.) I had no intention of seeing it, but then my wife did and said it was great and that I would like it.
I hated it. A cold, sterile watch, and you can do the rest. Wes Anderson can be added to the long list of things about which my wife is wrong (see Appendix 1 below). Tonight, I am going to see Oxford Utd v Sheffield Utd, while my wife is going to take the opportunity to watch The Darjeeling Limited for the first time. One of us will be experiencing genuine passion, the vicissitudes of human interplay, emotions that will set the heart racing… Can you guess which?
Maybe I should do a 28 day challenge of Things About Which My Wife Is Wrong. Day 1: “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to have children”. Good shout Nicoladamus.
Further to Appendix 1, keen readers will have observed that I regularly refer to the fact that I never planned to have children, and that it happened by accident. They might imagine that my children, in some way, feel unwanted or unloved as a result. So let me share with you an email I sent to all of them back in January:
I just wanted to take a moment to say with all my heart, no sarcasm, no silliness, basically none of the stuff which makes me who I am, how massively proud I am of all of you and how much I cherish the fact that you are in my life. As a young man I never dreamed I would have the fulfilment that I get from being responsible for bringing you into the world, and playing a small part in helping you turn into such bright, diverse and wonderful human beings.
Love you kids.
Brings a tear to the eye, doesn’t it? Do you know how many of them reacted? One. One of them said he’d read it and it was lovely and he was touched. My guess is that of the others, two of them shrugged, and one removed his shirt and took a selfie.