film

Review: The Darjeeling Limited

<b>The Darjeeling Limited</b> (2007)
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, Natalie Portman, Amara Karan, and Bill Murray.  Written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schartzman.  Directed by Wes Anderson

Francis has recently been in a terrible motorcycle crash.  Peter’s wife is seven months pregnant and he doesn’t know how to feel about it, since he always assumed his marriage wouldn’t last.  Jack has recently broken up with a girlfriend he doesn’t seem to want back, ‘though everything he does seems to be a reaction to this breakup.  The three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman, respectively) meet on the Darjeeling Limited, a train taking them to visit their semi-estranged mother, except that Peter and Jack don’t know it, because Francis has planned it to be a surprise.

A warm blanket of sadness covers the men, and it colors their every interaction.  Their lives apart from one another seem sad for sure, but there are also the relationships with each other, their relationship with their mother, the recent death of their father, and seemingly multiple unspoken layers in between each of these.

This is the first Wes Anderson film I’ve seen where the director’s visual style seems like more than just a style, but a storytelling device contributing to the viewer’s appreciation for the characters and their relationships.  “Here’s another way to look at these guys,” he seems to be telling us, rather than simply changing the backdrops behind the action on the screen like someone flicking through different greenscreen backgrounds while the brothers move through the plot.

Much of the action takes place in the confines of a train, and the movement from one part of the train to the next, superimposed on the movement of the train through the landscape is like looking at one slideshow on top of another.  It’s visually interesting, and it adds context to the spoken and unspoken words the brothers exchange as they navigate the complexities of their relationships.  It’s an unexpected pleasure, unlike the chore it was to follow The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I admit I fell asleep in the middle of and have therefore never reviewed.

Wilson, Brody, and Schwartzman are perhaps at their best in this film, and I’m reminded of what drew me to Wilson when I first saw him in Shanghai Noon.  His goofy, earnest charm has been absent these past ten years or so, and it’s nice to see it again.  The dialogue, consistently a strength in an Anderson picture, is fascinating here, rolling in like waves and sweeping back out, as interesting and comfortably lulling as the rattle of a train over the tracks.

What a pleasant surprise.  It’s not quite as good as Moonrise Kingdom, but in some ways it’s even better.  This feels like Anderson becoming the filmmaker I’d hoped he would become before I gave up on him.

8/10
80/100

 

2 Comments

    1. It’s my number 2 (I think I’ve seen them all now except The Life Aquatic). Moonrise Kingdom is still his best work, I think.

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