By: The Dweeb
The next entry from the creative mind of Wes Anderson, The Darjeeling Limited, is a very familiar one if you have seen any of his past work. With a distinctive style, both cinematically and in his writing, watching this film is like putting on an old pair of shoes, comfortable and familiar. Wes Anderson’s films may not be for everyone, it could almost be more for the festival and art house crowds, but I find them to be delightful and an enjoyable visual feast, although on the whole I don’t think this is one of his strongest films. It felt like only one small portion of the story has been told, and here it is also a decidedly darker in tone. For this film, Wes has stepped out of the studio and gone on location in India to tell this story. Wes for reasons unknown has always had an Indian fetish, using a lot of actors in previous films with Indian descent but here it has manifested itself in full. Anderson’s choice provides a lush rich backdrop to the story of three brothers on a spiritual journey so it is quite fitting here.
Darjeeling is focused on the journey of three brothers, in a dysfunctional Beatlesque journey to find spiritual enlightenment and find their estranged mother in India. Actually, the film really starts with the short film Hotel Chevalier in which Jack Whitman (Jason Schwartzman) is in a French hotel room ends up hooking back up with his ex girlfriend (Natalie Portman). Wes was a genius for making this portion a short film and releasing it online before Darjeeling hit theaters as a marketing ploy (and to generate some buzz because many watched just to see Portman’s butt). Along their way, the three discover that they cannot seem to trust each other and eventually it devolves into a good old fashioned brotherly brawl involving mace which of course gets them kicked off the train.
The three brothers make for an interesting dynamic, their interactions and backgrounds seem to be a complex one. We don’t know too much about their past lives, and we learn some snippets along the way but not enough to paint a full picture of where they are coming from. Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody don’t seem like they are even related at all, which would be typical of Anderson’s casting. I thought they were great fun characters. Actually, most of the film is filled with familiar faces with only Brody and Portman being the newcomers. There are several short cameos from Bill Murray, a staple in all other Wes Anderson films, and for the sharp eyed ones you will notice many of the background characters are familiar faces. All we needed was Anjelica Houston to round it out and poof! Right on cue there she is as the distant mother.
As usual, the cinematography in this film is superb. Wes takes advantage of the lush color provided by India to create rich visual backdrops. Jack Whitman’s portable Ipod player provides the soundtrack to the film, and in Anderson fashion the music never seems to fit the scene quite right. As far as the DVD itself is concerned, it is rather lacking in extra features. Past movies like the Royal Tennenbaums or The Life Aquatic were packed to the gills with all kinds of good stuff. Here we only get the trailer, a documentary with no background information and the short film Hotel Chevalier. I’m going to assume that future editions will provide us with the extra content that this film needs in order to explain itself.