“I want us to become brothers again.”
Rated R. Released on DVD February 26th. Written & Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman.
Whether you love Wes Anderson’s films or hate them or are somewhere in between, everyone can agree that he has a very distinctive style. When you’re watching a Wes Anderson film, you know you’re watching a Wes Anderson film. Between the meticulous production design, the oddly stylized dialogue, the slow motion montages, the soundtrack — Anderson has done what very few directors ever have — created his own type of movie.
While I didn’t love Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums (I’ve never seen Bottle Rocket), I thought they were pretty good and certainly entertaining, but I didn’t really like The Life Aquatic. I thought it was a little too Wes Andersony and while The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson’s latest, is still very distinctive, it tones down the Wes Anderson-ness to a level I can deal with. On a side note, it is pretty cool that I can use his name as an adjective and it still makes sense.
Anyway, The Darjeeling Limited is the story of three brothers, the oldest, Francis (Owen Wilson), the middle child Peter (Adrien Brody) and the youngest Jack (Jason Schwartzman) on a “spiritual journey” in India organized by Francis. It is a road trip movie in some sense, as the three encounter mishaps along the way, but it’s more a story of what it means to be family. They may not have much in common, and they may hate each other at points, but at the end of the day, they’re still brothers.
I’m not sure if Anderson is poking fun at his own filmmaking tendencies, but he makes Francis an obsessive perfectionist who has brought along an assistant to help plan the itinerary precisely and who drops off laminated schedules of the day’s event. And of course, it is genius to cast Owen Wilson has a guy with a broken nose, as Francis is coming off a motorcycle mishap, but Wilson does a fine job here. Brody is excellent as always, and Schwartzman, who co-wrote the film, rounds out the trio nicely. The plot is less important than the characters and their relationship, and the three, who share most of the screen time, do a very good job.
As far as Anderson goes, he does to India with Darjeeling what he did to New York City with the Royal Tenenbaums — create a sort of fairy-tale version of it to the point where I wasn’t even sure if the movie was filmed in India (it was). There is a part of me that finds the worlds he creates so fascinating because of how fantastical they are, but another part of me that finds it frustratingly escapist. A friend that saw it with me said that sometimes he wasn’t sure if he hated Wes Anderson or loved him. I can understand that feeling.
As a side note, I don’t know how it’s presented on the DVD, but in theaters, the short Hotel Chevalier (also known as the film where Natalie Portman gets naked) preceded the film, and while it’s not great, it definitely adds to the feature. There are a lot of callbacks to the short that make it worth seeing, not that a naked Natalie Portman isn’t worth seeing anyway.
As with any Wes Anderson film, The Darjeeling Limited has its flaws, but at the same time, the same qualities that give rise to the flaws are the same that give rise to the film’s strong point. With Wes Anderson, you kind of have to take the bad with the good. Besides, the combination of Wilson, Brody & Schwartzman is fun to watch throughout and they have such good chemistry that by the end you believe they are brothers. I’d recommend it, but Anderson’s films are such a matter of personal taste that I’d watch the trailer (included below) if you haven’t. It doesn’t give much away and the tone and style are very similar to what’s presented.