Monday, October 08, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited!

If you're a die hard Wes Anderson fan (and there are some fanatical ones out there) then you'll know whether or not you'll enjoy The Darjeeling Limited. If you accept the whimsical eccentricities of his previous efforts (and at this point, you should know if you do or not) then you will absolutely adore The Darjeeling Limited. I know because I did.

If you find Wes Anderson's films precocious, annoying, and/or pretentious then you will have a serious problem on your hands. So much so, that I might be forced to pen the horrible pun (that will most likely be used time and time again in reviews for this film): It won't be your cup of tea.

The Darjeeling Limited tells the story of three brothers, Francis (Owen WIlson), Peter (Adrien Brody), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman). They have not seen each other, and have hardly spoken, in over a year, since their father's funeral. Francis, the oldest and most overbearing, has arranged for the three of them to travel through India on a train (The titular Darjeeling Express) with the hopes of gaining a "spiritual experience". Naturally this involves lots of opiate based medication, alcohol, cigarettes, squabbling, mace, and at one point a deadly cobra. And a possible spiritual awakening, but saying that might spoil the ending for you.

I found a lot to like in this movie. It's certainly gorgeous, as India is a vibrant place to film, friendly to any camera lens. And it's filled with those awesome little things that make Wes Anderson films so damn precocious (slow motion shots with excellent music played over, elaborate set design), but it's not overstuffed with them, like his previous effort The Life Aquatic. There aren't any quick cut montages that showcase the tiniest details of a character's life. Also, there aren't nearly as many characters as there have been in previous films, which is helpful as it's the story of the brothers, and no one else's.

As the brothers, Wilson, Brody and Scwartzman are terrific, if a bit off putting. They're not the nicest of guys, but you have to endure them for this trip. As they go along, you can see their bond and recognize that they could very easily pull off being a family. I particularly liked Brody, and his penchant for stealing items. It's a nice running gag.

This is not a film necessarily about story as much as it is about emotion. Like all good art, it provides a window into a character's lives, then lets you decide it from there. Kudos to Anderson and his talented crew for making something as fantastic (and not overly whimsical) as the Darjeeling Express. I can honestly say this is one of the best films of the year, and I can't wait to see it again.

Fun Fact: Over on the interweb, you can hunt down "Hotel Chevalier", a short film Anderson made about Schwartzman's "Jack". It takes place before the events in Darjeeling, and it involves an artfully nude Natalie Portman. It's good to check this out before seeing the film as it, a) gives a bit more understanding to Jack and his state of being; b) sets up a great gag involving music that's used in Darjeeling; c) explains Portman's presence in the end of the film; and d) did I mention the tastefully nude Natalie Portman yet?

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