Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

Wes Anderson, who has redefined the word quirky, is a truly original visionary. Each of his films is undeniably distinguishable. Several aspects go into becoming such a modern-day legend. Anderson is notorious for his brilliant use of indie-rock music, his consistently unique, breathtaking cinematography, and his necessity to re-use his actors.

Anderson’s latest feat, The Darjeeling Limited, is much of the classic-Anderson same. The film begins with a heartbreaking short, Hotel Chevalier, in which a lonely man in Paris (Jason Schwartzman) is visited by his lost love (Natalie Portman). The short is a great prologue for what is to come, with Schwartzman introducing another insightful Anderson character. Once part II begins, we are taken on a whimsical journey.

Two brothers (Adrien Brody and Schwartzman) are invited by their brother (Owen Wilson) to embark on a month-long train ride in India to rediscover their relationships. The three indulge in wondrous conversations and hilarious shenanigans to fill their time.

Wilson has played a part in every one of Anderson’s films (as actor or co-writer), and they are where Wilson really shows his acting talent. The romantic and frat-boy comedies are okay, but only in an Anderson film will you get such delightful antics as Wilson barking polite orders to his brothers, all while his face is almost completely bandaged. Believe me, you’ll love every minute of it.

Anderson newcomer Brody delivers a career-unknown, brilliant comedic performance, as does Anderson vet (and co-writer) Schwartzman (who continues his Hotel Chevalier character). No actor is better than the other; it is a trio of true comedic acting. The characters are all equally well written and equally well acted that it makes for a great ride.

A dramatic turn will keep you engrossed and move you in ways completely beyond your expectations. I’ll never reveal the film’s best scene, which our three heroes are dressed in black. But it is in this extended scene that Anderson’s true talent in character development is apparent.

Anderson’s films are a tough sell. You either love it or hate it. You get them or you don’t. I didn’t get his last film, the overrated Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. But The Darjeeling Limited does a smart thing by going back to the Anderson essentials. With echoes of the mesmerizing Royal Tenebaums, and even a hint of his first, and best film Bottle Rocket, The Darjeeling Limited lives up to any fan’s highest prospects.

Like other film products of the 90s (Tarantino, Fincher, Jonze, Aronofsky, and so on) Anderson is a filmmaker with intense originality, each of his films is an eccentrically beautiful venture into life.

I’m not sure why Anderson chose to go to India, but we benefit from his reasons. The Darjeeling Limited is one of his best films, whose comedic genius holds you, and its dramatic tones keep you. I’d expect nothing less, from such a refreshingly innovative filmmaker. A


  1. Actually going to a theater anymore (say, the last decade or so) is more often labor than reward (art houses excluded, of course). But Wes Anderson films are a mandatory exception. I saw this at the time, and I doubt I've seen more than five or ten first run films of this quality since.

    1. Sadly, I'm going to have to agree with you. Excluding art houses (of course), I find that my movie-watching time is often much better used when at home watching or rewatching older stuff. So much of what is released mainstream nowadays is just garbage. Don't get me wrong, nothing tops the movie theater experience, but it's difficult to fork out dough for something you all but assume is going to be crap.

      But, yes, Anderson will always get my money as soon as possible.