Is 'The Pursuit of Love' Accidentally Wes Anderson?
'You know it when you see it,' explains the creator of @AccidentallyWesAnderson in the book inspired by his famous Instagram account. To appear accidentally Wes Anderson is to emulate the whimsical visual style which has come to define the American director's filmography: quaint and quintessentially European, in a chocolate box sort of way. Think of a wooden pancake stand on the side of a vast Slovenian lake, or a bubblegum pink chalet in the shadows of a snow-capped mountain.
Watching the BBC's new adaptation of The Pursuit of Love, it appears that writer/director Emily Mortimer has drawn something Andersonian from Nancy Mitford's beloved novel of adventure and passion. There's mustard yellow headboards, reminiscent of Anderson's stylistic 2007 short, Hotel Chevalier, starring Natalie Portman, and stag heads mounted on towering walls inside a foreboding castle.
Mortimer has imbued Mitford's already hilarious characters with a familiar kind of panache, too. There's Dominic West as the farcical Uncle Matthew, a moustachioed villain who cracks whips against the lawn in a green dressing gown to the backdrop of rousing operatic music. Then there's Andrew Scott, whose turn as the Lord Merlin in silk pyjamas feels like he's carrying a torch for Ralph Fiennes's sublimely camp Grand Budapest hotel concierge, Gustave H.
Beyond visual cues there's other calling cards of Anderson's in the cinematic style which Mortimer references, with title credits in swirly cursive suddenly announcing the locations of London or Alconleigh. The Pursuit of Love catches us up to speed with the character's backstories by condensing history into vignettes which flash quickly on the screen, playfully slipping in something unexpected for a millisecond to catch us off guard.
This flip-book of images, whether it's the entrenching tool hung on the wall of the Radlett's home, or the map and compass of two child adventurers in Moonrise Kingdom, draw you into their world. As a result, like the linen cupboard on The Radlett's top floor becomes the boardroom for the Hons Society, their house transforms into something more exciting. It's a dolls-house of objects like the Tenenbaums' grand family home, or the tight maze of a submarine on The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
While several viewers grumbled on Twitter that they hoped Anderson was getting royalties, the unexpected style breathed new life into the period piece, making it feel less like a stuffy adaptation and more similar in energy to Netflix's raucous Bridgerton.
Incorporating elements of Anderson's whimsical storytelling style also seems to capture the spirit of adventure and style which lives in the original novel, a world of people who, as Mitford wrote, "Flourished and shone with jewels, lovely clothes, brilliant hair and dazzling complexions; when they danced they really did seem to float."
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