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This is a film occupied with moments. Wonderful moments. It is not so
much concerned with mechanics of plot but for me, it never got dull.
Wes Anderson has matured in subtle ways and this film is a well crafted
blend of the personal and the pageantry - Powell and Pressburger and
Cassavetes. "The Rules of the Game" and "Husbands." "The Last Detail"
and "The River."
The "spiritual journey" is used as pretext. Some people really don't like this. There is so much humor in watching three brothers stoned on Indian pharmaceuticals, trying to pray and getting sidetracked by arguments over stolen belts and confided secrets. They are flawed. People are flawed. Audiences tend to like their characters so likable that they are bland stereotypes. People can be privileged and disaffected AND still be beautiful and intriguing.
In the end, this movie is a fun ride. A stroll through various imaginative carts, occupied by compartments of colorful characters and incidents. Wes is further interweaving his "dollhouse" aesthetic with the real world. He is not so hung up on inventing every little thing and I could tell he was finding faces and peripheral details just as they were, waiting for him in India.
Nine bucks well spent for me. This guy's taking chances - some don't work. He's trying to push the medium forward in terms of tone. Some parts of his movies are difficult. Some people will get left behind. But for me, someone whose watched his films grow in scope and daring, I think he's an American treasure who may never arrive at the perfect film, but he'll continue to integrate cinema's history in new and exciting ways.
This is such a DAMN GOOD MOVIE.
It's this bright, expansive, random, happy, sad, funny, stupid, and wise trip that these 3 brothers take, and I'm not here to give you the play by play. Watch the thing, and you'll see how it's not something that adds up to the sum of its what-not. It's just Not One of Those kinds of movies.
Instead, it's one of those that has to be seen to be believed, and is worlds-better experienced than recounted. It's a Trip. Through the spaces between people, as well as within India.
And Yes, it has much in common with the rest of director Wes Anderson's stuff, visually and thematically and tonally, in the best ways, if you ask me. I think he was really hittin' his stuff on all cylinders in this one.
Just So Much that's implied rather than stated. So Much in the way that people and relationships can be both lamented And celebrated. He just brings So Much to the screen, but always leaves that space that demands the audience step up and meet him on the platform, with our own individual "baggage" we've brought along. It's Great.
And maybe it was the way it was shot and cut and directed and acted, all very subtly, vividly, kinetically...
Maybe it was the way the characters felt really REAL, fascinating and absurd and pathetic and majestic, all at the same time.
Maybe it was because India is so bright and beautiful and exotic, to the tourist's and movie-goer's eyes.
Maybe it was just random enough and specifically-rendered enough to really hit me RIGHT THERE, but IT DID.
I enjoyed this more than any movie I've seen in a long time.
Real Art made with Real Heart.
So Sad and Funny and Just Damn Beautiful.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Darjeeling Limited is a metaphor-laden ride in which the characters
all have baggage, both literal and figurative, that they cannot seem to
shed because they have yet to understand that they would be less
encumbered without it.
I am a fan of Wes Anderson, even though his movies generally leave me with a feeling of numbness on first viewing, and a sense of uncertainty as to whether or not I thought the film was any good from a plot and character standpoint. I find myself remembering scenes and images and in the days and weeks that follow; I enjoy revisiting my memories of it and pondering the quirks of characters, the mind of the characters, and the intent of the director. There aren't any big emotional payoffs or any neat plot twists. Dialogue that seems nonsensical, trivial, or awkward turns out to be easily related to overarching themes as the movie unfolds and rewinds in my mind's eye. Or maybe it's all just a big, steaming pile of pretentious nonsense, too twee and too precious for its own good. I can't decide. I can never decide. I remain baffled and frustrated, but something about them keeps me coming back.
"I have GOT to get off this train," said the stewardess, Rita. The train is the biggest metaphor, bigger even than the pile of Louis Vuitton luggage the three brothers, played by Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman, drag all over India in a quest for spiritual enlightenment and a return to being brothers "they way they used to be". One suspects that they never were the way they used to be.
Peter cannot let go of his father, who died in an accident he witnessed, and who he was not able to save. He carries around certain personal objects that do not fit him, or are outdated, like talismans. Meanwhile, he is terrified of becoming a father himself. Francis, survivor of a motorcycle accident that has left him wrapped in bandages, wants the brothers to become close, but constantly annoys both of them with his fussy, overbearing, control-freak ways. Jack pines for a girlfriend he can't leave, or who won't leave him, and of whom his two brothers disapprove. Meanwhile, he has casual sex with Rita with no more real forethought than he applies to slugging down narcotic cough syrup and pills of unknown provenance, just to make his surroundings more interesting and to take his mind off his ex-girlfriend.
But the brothers' most profound source of unhappiness is that their own family has failed to live up to their image of what a family should be. This longing for an idealized family and parents is a major theme in Anderson's movies. They resent their runaway mother, who did not show up for their father's funeral, they squabble over who should have possession of their father's belongings.
It is a bereaved Indian father who gives Peter the absolution he craves, not his brothers or his mother. Francis finally removes his bandages and lets his younger brothers see his wounds, both emotional and physical. Jack is the only one who seems largely unchanged is this because the actor was a co-writer? It must be very hard to write for yourself.
All this makes it seem a serious movie, which it is not. There are two good hearty laughs to be found in it and many wry smiles. The brothers are exasperating and shallow, at times even petty, and yet you find yourself liking them all the same. I found these characters to be intriguing. Peter seems the most outwardly normal, but he has the strangest quirks. Francis is oddly sexless, almost monastic. One suspects he may very well end up living much as his mother does. I kept waiting for him to make some comment about his scarring and how it might affect his romantic life, but he never did. Jack is highly sexed, yet seems uncomfortable in his body, hiding behind his little porn star moustache. He yearns to be mysterious and exotic, or a romantic expatriate artiste, but when he attempts to act as such, it just comes off awkward and forced.
Owen Wilson is an actor I've never had a whole lot of use for, but I must admit that he was very good in this movie. He brought a sweetness to a character who could have been simply annoying. Adrien Brody was fine as Peter. His character had to display the most emotional range, and was also the most physical, with some episodes of good slapstick. Anderson clearly understood Brody's strengths and made them work. He and Wilson were effective in scenes together and had the chemistry of real brothers. I was less impressed with Jason Schwartzman. I have liked him a lot better in other movies. I felt he was overshadowed in this film whenever he had to go up against Brody and Wilson, despite being given the funniest lines. He did well in his scenes with Rita.
Wes Anderson's movies have been criticized for being too white, too rich (his main characters usually don't have money worries, Max Fischer aside), and for having a void in the center. I think setting this movie in India with all its beauty and diversity and having some of the strong supporting characters be Indian helped with the whiteness factor. But to criticize movies like this for having a void in the center kind of misses the point. His movies are about the voidthe one that exists between people who yearn for that sense of connection. And the best way to bridge it is to stop taking yourself so damn seriously.
The Darjeeling Limited is unlike the average comedy. While not being
truly laugh out loud funny, the film is clever, well written, with
memorable characters and one liners that grow wittier over time. The
only type of movie it can be compared to are other films by Wes
Anderson, the director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and the love
it or hate film, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. All of his movies
are extremely stylized, with slow motion sequences, wide lenses that
slightly distort the frame, and privileged, depressed characters with
family issues all thrown together in a slightly artificial, timeless,
carefully detailed environment. While with The Life Aquatic he may have
tried to do too much, The Darjeeling Limited shows Anderson finally
perfected his style. He knows when to throw inside jokes to his most
loyal of fans, while keeping his stories fresh and personal, without
acknowledging the critics who blame Anderson for repeating himself.
The film is absolutely engaging from the very start with a hilarious, memorable cameo by Bill Murray, trying to catch the Darjeeling Limited train in slow motion, yet is outrun by Adrien Brody's Peter to the tune of The Kinks' This Time Tomorrow, one of the three Kinks songs in the film (all are accompanied by slow motion sequences). Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson play the three Whitman brothers, Peter, Jack, and Francis. Wilson's character has organized a spiritual journey through India with his brothers who have not spoken to one other since their father's funeral a year ago. Performance-wise, the standout is Wilson, in what might be his best role yet. Owen Wilson seems to play himself in all of his other movies, with Wes Anderson being the only writer/director to truly know how to use his talents. The characters begin to realize that one cannot force a spiritual journey, no matter how many temples visited and organized rituals performed for brotherly bonding as printed on a laminated itinerary. The bender that results is a ridiculously entertaining blend of comedy and drama successfully aided by Anderson's great choice of music and colorful, dynamic cinematography.
Extremely recommended viewing (other than Anderson's previous efforts) before watching this amazing film is Hotel Chevalier, a 13 minute short film directed by Anderson and starring Jason Schwartzman, available for free download online through Itunes. In the film, Schwartzman plays the same character that he plays in The Darjeeling Limited. Also starring is Natalie Portman as Jack's ex-girlfriend, who makes a brief cameo in the feature film as well. The short film helps establish Schwartzman's character, and provides clues on certain details of The Darjeeling Limited. Also, a couple of funny moments in the feature wouldn't make much sense without seeing the short. The emotional, yet blissful experience that is The Darjeeling Limited is Wes Anderson's best film thus far, defeating Rushmore for that top spot.
When deciding whether or not to see this film, the question is very
simple: Do you like Wes Anderson's previous work? If you answered yes
to this question, you will adore The Darjeeling Limited. If you
answered no, you'd better spend your money elsewhere. I personally,
fall very deeply into the former category. I've always been a huge
Anderson fan and adore all four of his previous efforts, and this
certainly ranks among his best (top three, easily). This is a much more
guided, inspirational and personal work from the man. While his other
features have been more minimalistic and set between a certain group of
characters, Darjeeling takes on a much larger world.
The story is about three estranged brothers, Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman). About one year ago their father died and they went their different ways. Of course, nothing can start off too happy in a Wes Anderson world. Francis attempted suicide (the irony is painful), Peter is having a baby with his wife Alice who he always thought he would divorce and Jack is trying to get over a rough break up (some inside jokes for those who have seen Hotel Chevalier are included). Francis decides to reunite these brothers on a spiritual journey across India, via train, and everything happens to go horribly wrong.
The chaos that ensues is quirky, hilarious and utterly perfect for fans of Anderson like myself. The performances from the three leads are brilliant, particularly Adrien Brody whom I thought was going to be out of his Oscar-winning element but actually fit in so well that I preferred him to the rest of the cast. There is a huge turn into a more somber mood about halfway through that brings up memories of Luke Wilson's big scene in The Royal Tenenbaums (nobody tries to commit suicide, mind you) and the film picks up on the dramatic sentiment before jolting right back into the uniquely brilliant world that always keeps my sides in stitches. The man's genius is as strong as ever. This may be his best film and it's certainly his most poignant.
Given the trademark quirkiness yet insight into many profound truths of
human behaviour one would expect from director Wes Anderson, it should
come as no surprise that his latest film, The Darjeeling Limited,
demonstrates the majority of these traits with particular flair and
distinction, arguably Anderson's strongest work to date.
The typically disjointed plot details three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) who, in an attempt to bridge the gap between them, embark on a "spiritual journey" across India by train. Of course, considering Anderson's tendency towards offbeat comedic situations, and a series of problems involving Indian cough syrup, a poisonous cobra and pepper spray, the journey does not, of course, go as planned, and the brothers are forced to cope with their increasingly difficult situation and each other in turn.
Do not mistake the film for the conventional road trip buddy comedy it may appear to be - Anderson is far too eclectic and clever to subscribe to such traditional fare, and his film is instead a far more emotional effort. With a particular knack for intricate character and storyline development, Anderson's script carefully doles out tidbits of character history throughout, painting a gradual and remarkably detailed portrait of the central characters as the film progresses. Though the film may drag or feel as if it falls slightly short of its true potential at times, on the whole it is far to easy to be swept up by the film to dwell on such minor concerns.
The gorgeous Indian scenery is captured with particular affection by Anderson's jarring cinematography and sharp eye for intriguing colour schemes. The film's wonderfully fitting soundtrack perfectly compliments the sublime visuals, making for one of the most aesthetically pleasing films in recent memory.
The central three actors are the real draw of the film, and all three boast excellent chemistry throughout. Owen Wilson, as usual, is effortlessly funny as spiritually obsessive control freak Francis, but also brings a tragic undercurrent to his character, made more poignant due to recent real life events out of character. A superb Adrien Brody steals the show as the emotionally unstable soon to be father Pete, demonstrating both previously unseen comedic abilities, and genuinely affecting emotional clout. As bitter writer Jack, Jason Schwartzman proves proficient at raising many a laugh, but despite his strong performance is easily overshone by his two co-stars during the film's dramatic moments. Watch also for amusing cameos from Bill Murray and Natalie Portman (featured more significantly in the film's 13 minute prequel found online at www.hotelchevalier.com), and a somewhat forced supporting role from Angelica Huston near the end.
Like the rest of Anderson's other work, audiences will likely either love it or hate it. This is not a typical belly laugh evoking comedy à-la-Superbad - the humour present is more sly and chuckle worthy, and prides itself more on precisely crafted characters and situations than sight gags and one liners. Those willing to appreciate the film for what it is will enjoy an intelligent and touching spiritual meditation on family, and life in general. The joy is in the journey, and a journey as quirky and sentimental as this is one easily worth taking - for those willing to put forth the effort to overcome mainstream expectations, the film will not disappoint.
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzmann as three brothers who
haven't spoken for years, on a train. In India. By Wes Anderson.
It's a good idea, isn't it? No...it's a great idea. Three good actors in three-well written roles in an open, exciting and unpredictable environment, while they're also stuck with each other in a cramped an uncomfortable train carriage. With more than a little baggage...
However, despite the bright, new and fantastically shot environment and the well-cast new member of the Anderson family, The Darjeeling Limited is what has become a typical Wes Anderson film. Despite its relocation from the suburbs, or more recently, the deep blue sea, it's still a film about a dysfunctional family and their endeavours to become...slightly more functional. The comedy is derived from sibling tension and the conflicts of the past, and even the music, that typical Anderson blend of quirky yet affecting relatively unknown tracks which is very good and works in all the right ways, feels comfortable and expected despite its "newness".
I seem to be griping because Anderson's fifth movie is as good as the others. And in a way, I am. The Darjeeling Limited is the work of a director who has found his groove (or in this case, his track) and doesn't show signs of trying to get out of it. As a result, not much of it really feels surprising. It's just as well he's good at what he does then, isn't it? It's the way Anderson handles the family drama that sets Darjeeling apart. While it's funny in all those idiosyncratic ways, making light of familial relations and awkward interactions, Anderson's warm, tender approach draws you into the lives of these characters. And, because of their respective flaws and quirks, they become more than characters; you can see them as people.
Anderson's movies have always had genuine heart buried not too far below the layer of offbeat style, so despite its familiarity, Darjeeling is arguably in this respect his best work. You can see a part of yourself in each of the Whitman brothers, and in cinema there is no substitute for that.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you have ever traveled India as a Westerner, considering yourself to
be aware of cultural ignorance and stigmata and have discovered that
world full of variations, full of true spiritually in every aspect of
life (living, death, beauty, ugliness, dirt, colors, poverty and
richness), this film will touch you in the most embarrassing way.
I have never seen any Wes Anderson film before, in fact I hoped to see a film which makes a clever and funny statement about civilization torn lifestyle .
But all I saw was a shallow college movie, taking place in an India which does not exist like this, depicted in a very insulting and tactless way.
The plot was hardly fathomable. An upper-class family fell apart some years ago or something... and tries a reunion somewhere on a trip from Radjasthan to Tibet? The three main character's adventures seamed, apart from their stupidity, straight out of a puberty driven boy's daydreams, including conquering princess-like Indian girl servants , rescuing kids of a village from a bridge destroyed by the power of nature, encounters with poisonous snakes and tigers, romantic dates on a Paris rooftop etc.
All boring, I hardly laughed once. A film which deepens stereotypes and which is a loss to everybody who is expecting a somehow intelligent or funny film!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went to The Darjeeling Limited with reasonably high expectations
having enjoyed Anderson's earlier films and given that my family were
originally from Gujerat (not far from the film's locations in
Rajasthan). However, I found it to be largely crass, laboured and
insensitive. It's the kind of film that Americans who have never been
to India might enjoy, but for anyone who loves and knows the country
it's quite another matter.
It's hard to warm to any of the characters - they are a series of quirks rather than real people (eg Jason Schwartzman doesn't wear shoes, for some unfathomable reason). In particular, it's not so great to watch bland, unlikeable Americans going to India to 'find' themselves when the film is so uninterested itself in India. Here it is nothing more than a colourful backdrop. Anderson clearly cares for it so little that a scene supposedly taking place in the foothills of the Himalayas was clearly shot in Rajasthan. For those of you who haven't been, the foothills are about as dissimilar from Rajasthan as Montana is from New York. They are a world apart.
The film is laden down with some of the worst metaphors that I have seen in a supposedly 'intelligent' film. When the three brothers finally discover the real meaning of life, they literally abandon their baggage - they dump it on the station platform! It's a long time since I've seen something as laboured as this.
This film is cultural appropriation of the worst sort.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
After their very wealthy father of the Whitman family dies three very
wealthy brothers set off to India to find their wealthy self-indulgent
mother who is undergoing some mental catharsis guilt trip by acting as
a nun in a Quasi Christian temple in India. On this journey through
India, these three brothers attempt to also attain some spirituality by
undergoing ridiculous made up spiritual rituals. The film actually
begins with this meaningless episode of Jack Whitman, played by Jason
Schwartzman, staying in an upmarket French hotel and having a reunion
with his girlfriend played by Natalie Portman. There is a very
gratuitous naked scene of Natalie Portman (More for the benefit of the
Coppola family she obliges) and that just about ends her contribution
to the film except for two seconds at the end. Bill Murray and Angelica
Huston also make cameo appearances. The contrast between the three
brothers and the absolute poverty of India is brushed over by some
stupid interaction in the saving of a child's life and the funeral of
one that tragically dies. There is a simplistic attempt at symbolism in
the act of unloading luggage.
This very cheap self-indulgent film was a further extravagant means of introducing another member of the Coppola family into the film business in the Family Nepotism tradition.
This film was written and produced by Roman Coppola and his cousin Jason Schwartzman along with Wes Anderson, who directs the film (he directed the Royal Tenenbaums). Owen Wilson and Adrian Brody play the other two brothers. The film is stupid and tells us nothing about the human condition other than extremely rich trendy men can make short films at the drop of a feather.
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