The Darjeeling Limited Reviews
Francis is that controlling big brother who kind of acts like a bully, but he's subtle and sweet about it. But the brothers can't take it, erupting into a brawl that gets them evicted from the train. They've also gotten a letter from Sister Patricia Whitman, who is their mother, asking them not to come. Now everything seems hopelessly pointless.
There's a strategically placed scene by a campfire, which seems to put our minds at ease about a situation that should be uneasy. Anderson seems self-aware here, that we the audience don't usually feel much danger in his boxed world, we're never too far off the beaten path given his visual style; we're safe. So he follows it with a scene that changes our perception of him, the Whitmans encountering boys in trouble at a river. Peter is unable to save the last boy, a shocking turn, our first bit of realism with quirky humor: encountering death. They are further off the path now, resorting to the Indian village of the deceased boy. The father of the boy grieves, Peter getting his own spiritual taste, feeling for the guilty and remorseful for his inability to save the boy. It seems like the spirituality should be dwindling, but not for Peter, who is glad to be invited to the boy's funeral instead of being outcast.
There's an abrupt jump that confused me - they're out of India, Francis' bandages removed, Jack's mustache shaved; I didn't know if it was flashing back or ahead. We meet Alice, Peter's wife, who we've only heard about for nearly an hour. But the hour mark itself shows us a big change from where we were earlier: the brothers are united, looking almost like a gang as they back a tow trucker down who gets in their way. They're uniform. But the scene is capped with Francis withholding information - they seem united, but yet again he demonstrates his historical controlling nature.
The prototypical Wes Anderson boxed-staging is represented a few minutes later... pan from brothers waiting for bus, to the cattle in front of them, to the boy on their left, and then to the path on their right. The camera is at it's own four-way intersection, swiveling to capture a perfectly centered shot at each pivot point. Anderson also accompanies his film with tremendous musical choices that complement the flavor, style, tone, and energy of each scene.
As we near the end of the film, the ultimate symbolism appears to match an earlier shot of Peter running onto the back of Darjeeling with his luggage, this time contrasted by all the brothers running onto a train, but tossing their luggage aside. This tends to be the result of these larking movies, it's about letting it all go, leaving it all behind to get somewhere else in life, cutting cords with the weight that's held them down for so long, everything they've been holding on to. It's an unsatisfying ending for me because I don't agree with this so-called spiritual moment. It's a popular view among spiritualists to let go of everything and just be this naked animal in the world. But I think it shows a lack of appreciation for the things we gather in life.
I've seen a lot of loose threaded movies lately, leaving so much story incomplete, and not always for the sake of a sequel. It's frustrating, there's obviously more story to tell. The film is missing a whole third act. It felt like we reached the end of act two and are gearing up for another 25-30 minutes of film, but the credits roll. It's also displeasing to have the likes of Bill Murray and Natalie Portman making mere cameos. It looked like Murray had a story to tell, but it was a tease, and he's set aside.
The brothers did nothing after all.
For better or worse, The Darjeeling Limited is the same film Wes Anderson has been making for his entire career. Following three estranged brothers hoping to reunite on a spiritual journey across India, the movie deals with a lot of familiar Wes Anderson themes: aside from the aforementioned estranged siblings, a sense of melancholy and his familiar deadpan sense of humor are present. Fortunately, the characters, despite being initially unlikeable in traditional Anderson style, are well rounded and their collective arc is engaging. Ironically, it's through their misadventures that the three brothers find themselves, rather than through spiritual means: it's an admittedly clever satire of the spiritual journeys so many yearn for when visiting places like India. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody (a first time Anderson collaborator), and Jason Schwartzman are all great, and their back-and-forths really hold the film together. Wes Anderson brings his traditional visual style as well: shots are framed with his famous sense of symmetry and whip-pan camera shots, and they're not as in-your-face and overdone as in his later works.
The Darjeeling Limited has been considered lesser Wes Anderson by many, but it's an entertaining watch with a nice story and direction. Any Wes Anderson fan (and perhaps those without knowledge of his works too) would be insane to not see it.
Watched it this afternoon because it turned up from Netflix, though I'm not even sure when I added it to the queue to be honest. I enjoyed it, though I maybe would've enjoyed it more had I been specifically in the mood for Wes Anderson's typical navel-gazing brand of quirky characters.
Naked Natalie Portman in the little short film before the feature was a welcome surprise, even though I had seen stills on the web previously.
This is a film that's grown on my quite a bit and something I'd highly recommend.