Capone says Wes Anderson is back to form with THE DARJEELING LIMITED!!!
Published at: Oct. 8, 2007, 2:15 p.m. CST by headgeek
I do like Wes Anderson; I really do. But I was not one of his loyal subjects that followed him upon the waters of The Life Aquatic, and I suspected that film marks a turning point in Anderson's popularity. People still wanted to know what he was up to, but the world was no longer aflutter and the sound of his name. But then he made that wonderful American Express commercial. You think I'm kidding, but I thinks that's one of the greatest commercials in recent years, and it would good to see that maybe Anderson wasn't taking himself as seriously as his admirers were. There's a bit of self-mockery at hand in that lovely short work, and that self-effacement continues ever so slightly in his latest, the wonderfully light and fluid The Darjeeling Limited, a film in which Anderson reminds us that he started out as an entertaining director with a few serious thoughts that crept into the work without him smashing them into our collective faces.
Lest I forget this housekeeping notice: go now to iTunes and watch the prologue short Hotel Chevalier. You don't need to see it to understand what goes on in Darjeeling, but there are some great plot points made all the more funny and interesting by having seen it first. I was lucky enough to see it on the big screen just before the feature, and I consider it wonderful bittersweet moment in time made all the more perfect by Natalie Portman's partial nudity. Bliss, thy name is Portman.
Anyway, Darjeeling follows a few days in the lives of three brothers who haven't seen each other in a while. Owen Wilson plays Francis, who has organized an elaborate tour of India via luxury train, with siblings Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) by his side. They drink, take drugs, and engage in all manner of wacky behavior on this trip before they get kicked off. I couldn't tell you a single thing they talk about, but that isn't really the point. They are attempting to bond by the most artificial means imaginable, and it's hilarious. They each have secrets that aren't worth keeping, but for some reason, one reveals a secret to another to the exclusion of the third, but then the third finds out, feeling are hurt, mending occurs, and shockingly enough bonding does happen. But Francis' motives aren't entirely pure. He isn't actually touring India with his brothers; he's leading them somewhere they probably don't want to go. You've probably seen images of Wilson's bandaged face in photos from this film, and that has something to do with his mindset and commitment to this project.
The film loses a bit of its focus when the brothers get kicked off the train and begin wandering the desert with what seems like a dozen suitcases with their dead father's initials on them. Anderson's visual style is largely intact here, but the mere fact that he's chosen to film is such a colorful and exotic locale speaks volumes to his willingness to shake things up a bit. All three actors do great work here, but it's Wilson that holds your attention. When he's not on camera, you miss him. And he's never better than when he's working with his constant partner Anderson.
Other Anderson regulars like Bill Murray and Anjelica Houston pop up in interesting and very funny ways here, but it's newcomers like Amara Karan and Irfan Khan (so good in both A Mighty Heart and The Namesake) who fascinate us with their presence. There's a part of me that hopes Anderson never stops making films exactly like he does. There's a comfortable essence to what he does, and it feels like seeing an old friend every couple of years. But The Darjeeling Express isn't like other films by this somewhat enigmatic filmmaker. It's full of mystery and spender and a few raw notions that set this one apart from the rest. It's not in any way an overhaul of his style or visual notions, but it is unique. This film is the cinematic equivalent to baby steps toward something greater…I hope.