Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited

I missed reviewing this one when it was first out, even though it was right towards the top of my list of movies to see. But since it's coming out on video today, I figured it's the opportune time to revisit it. Wes Anderson is the absolute master of melancholy, and inspiration to the likes of everyone from Paul Thomas Anderson, to Noah Baumbach. His movies can described as both brilliant, and well.....nothing. Darjeeling Limited is no exception.

Anderson reunited with Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson. One of them has appeared in every one of Anderson's movies. Adrien Brody is included this time out. The three of them play brothers trying to reconnect after their father's funeral. Each of them has their own deficiencies and eccentricities, which are brought out by a cross country train ride through India. Eldest brother, Francis (Wilson) planned the whole adventure after a suicide attempt. This is very poignant considering Wilson's real life issues. Peter (Brody) is addicted to pain killers, and despite having a son due in a month, agrees to take this trip. Jack (Schwartzman), having just come from a bad relationship is funneling all of his emotions into his writing. Their true journey starts after they get left off the train in the desert. And an entirely new quest begins.

I love Anderson, and I love all three actors, but this movie doesn't quite live up to its potential. The characters live in desperation like all of Anderson's but this time they weren't quite so stoic about it. Occasionally they actually got on my nerves. Maybe it's just gotten to the point that Anderson is becoming almost a caricature of himself.

The exotic locale did add to the movie. Especially the Indian soundtrack. Granted, it was no Seu Jorge covering David Bowie songs, but it still worked. The themes of the three of them trying to rekindle a relationship among harbored (and completely justified) feelings of distrust and deceit were powerful at times. And when you include each of them working through their personal demons on this spiritual quest, you get characters with many layers. Unfortunately for people who are supposed to be repressing their feelings, they were a tad bit too forward with what they were thinking.

I think I'm probably being too picky, just because I was expecting one of the best movies of the year. Anderson does what he does best, capture and deliver dry and depressing observational humor that defines his characters. The "We haven't located ourselves yet" scene when the train gets lost, sums up the theme in all of Anderson's movies. It was certainly good, but no Royal Tannenbaums or Rushmore.

Also, watch the short "Hotel Chevalier," which serves as an exposition to Jason Schwartzman's character. It's difficult to find, but worth it. As a bonus, it features Natalie Portman.


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