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Let's go have a drink and smoke a cigarette,
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This review is from: Darjeeling Limited (DVD)
Wes Anderson is at his best when he explores a small group of people -- sometimes family, sometimes not -- and explores what makes them tick.
And after the cluttered "The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou," Anderson returns to those roots with "The Darjeeling Limited." Technically it's an Indian road trip movie, and it's full of his quirky charm... but at heart it's just about three unhapppy brothers with a lot of baggage. Both literally and psychologically.
The forlorn Peter (Adrien Brody) and his luggage barely make it to an Indian train in time to join his brothers, woman-chasing writer Jack (Jason Schwartzman) and bandaged control freak Francis (Owen Wilson). They haven't spoken for a year, and now they're planning to awkwardly bond as they travel to their estranged mother's convent.
But after disasters involving a snake, painkillers and pepper spray, the three brothers find themselves (and their monogrammed suitcases) thrown off the train. As they trek back to civilization, the three men set out on a quest to explore the spiritual, deal with life, death, feathers, man-eating tigers, funerals and their own painful memories... and possibly find their mom.
Nobody in their right mind would expect Wes Anderson to spin up an ordinary good-ol'-boys road trip movie. At least, not the way most directors would. Instead, Anderson crafts this as the baby brother to "The Royal Tenenbaums," exploring a fractured, mildly dysfunctional family with an absent parent.
And the cinematic flavour of "Darjeeling Limited" is much the same as in "Royal Tenenbaums" -- bittersweetly funny and arch, with a tinge of poetic melancholy underlying the plot. It would be an endearing movie in any setting, but somehow putting it in the mellow glow of India's dusty roads, bright fields and cluttered shrines makes it even better. The bright, visual richness gives it a sense of whimsy.
For the record, Roman Coppola and Schwartzman helped Anderson out with the script, but there isn't much change. As always, lots of wry, amusingly contemplative dialogue ("I wonder if the three of us would've been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people"), though there is some hilarious comedic scenes of sibling infighting. It even gets slapsticky.
Fortunately, Anderson never puts artificial twists into the story, for any extra drama, comedy or thrills; the closest thing would be a brief detour into a child's funeral. The story simply flows by, because it's all about the brothers -- and focusing on anything but their self-imposed journey would just be extra baggage.
And the three men playing Jack, Francis and Peter are nothing short of brilliant. Brody is vaguely lost and forlorn, while Schwartzman is a quirky rake who is still haunted by his last girlfriend (played by Natalie Portman in the short intro, "Hotel Chevalier"). But there's something almost painfully wounded about Wilson's reckless control freak, which has nothing to do with his bandages.
"The Darjeeling Limited" is a visually astounding, contemplative little comedy, all about three men who have to deal with the past before they can move on. Put it on the shelf next to "Royal Tenenbaums."
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 26, 2010 11:31:21 AM PDT
Kathi D says:
This review reflects what I love about the movie, and I couldn't hope to do better. The Darjeeling Limited is one of the handful of movies that I really MUST own, because I will watch it again and again (forcing anyone who hasn't yet seen it to SIT DOWN AND PAY ATTENTION--yes, I'm one of those).
Posted on Feb 3, 2011 10:18:32 PM PST
D. A. Yurkovich says:
Totally agree. This is a truly brilliant movie. It stands high above the mediocre offerings of Hollywood. Beautifully written, acted, and filmed. Have watched this movie dozens of times already. Doesn't get any better than this.
Posted on Apr 29, 2011 12:52:11 PM PDT
Posted on Apr 9, 2012 5:03:01 PM PDT
I disagree about Life Aquatic, but you really nailed this movie! Great job
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