I said in my Grand Hotel review that there’s a good bit of expectation when one goes into a film that has won Best Picture. So when I decided that the next film I’d watch in this odyssey of mine would be Cavalcade, my expectations were pretty much immediately on the rise. That being said, I knew very little about Cavalcade, so when I did my little bit of research and found out it was a period-piece drama set in turn-of-the-century England featuring well-to-do upper-class citizens, the name Cavalcade immediately struck me as incongruous. Even with my heightened expectations, the one-sentence summary of Cavalcade threatened me with dissatisfaction once I’d decide to start the film. Needless to say, as soon as the opening credits started rolling and the bombastic choir singing whatever the opening theme was supposed to be began to blare from the screen, I had the distinct feeling that I was not going to like Cavalcade at all; a feeling that was not abated at any point through the film’s running time.
Indeed, the one-sentence summary above does much to describe what Cavalcade ends up being. The Marryot family, Robert and Jane and their two children, live in London right at the end of the 19th century; the film starts with them celebrating and ringing in the new century. As the years pass, war comes and goes and comes again, and the family, along with the family of their servants as well, tries to endure all that the world and fate has to throw at them; a summary more familiar to Hollywood audiences of the time would be hard to come by. Still, with how the film was purporting itself to be, the overall feeling of Cavalcade was a very odd one. While the elevator pitch for the film was of an epic tale centered on a family as it tries to weather the storm of time’s passage over a generation, I got a little too much of ‘old Hollywood’ style filmmaking coming through to really make such a pitch a successful one. The film seemed to be fighting itself, wanting to be a certain way but unable to be so because of how the film necessitated its own construction and assembly. Cavalcade seemed to be at the midpoint of a developmental surge in the particular genre it’s classified as; it’s not the progenitor of the idea of such a film, and it’s not at the end-point where such an idea is fully realized in its best form in the medium of cinema – Cavalcade lies somewhere in the middle, and thus comes across as largely a superfluous watch in cinema’s history. Even with this, though, I had to admire director Frank Lloyd and how much he manages to get done, and how skillfully he manages to do it all. That said, the acting could’ve been a bit better, and by a bit better I mean it was very overblown, to the point of being annoying more often than it should’ve been.
Once again, I feel like I need to clarify the rating I’m giving a film; this is a 6 that’s getting bonus points from me for how well it was made, and nothing more. It’s unquestionably in the bottom half, and probably in the bottom quarter, of all the Best Picture winners, and really, there’s not a whole lot of reason for you to ever see it, nor is it a particularly rewarding experience should you decide you wish to see it. I might be a little more mean to the film than it probably deserves, but when I go into a film, especially a Best Picture winner, and get virtually nothing out of it on the other end, then I tend to get a little miffed about the whole thing. Frank Lloyd deserved his win for Best Director, but I’d be surprised if this ended up in the top half of my rankings of this year’s Best Picture nominees, and again, for a Best Picture winner, that’s saying something.
Arbitrary Rating: 7/10