Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Review: The Darjeeling Limited

The Short... This is another well rounded and entertaining film from Anderson. Funny, engaging and meaningful. You just wish that he'd try to make a film with new themes or stories that he hasn't already done many times before.

The Long... Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman play three brothers who meet up in India (on request of Wilson's character) to go on a journey of "spiritual discovery" after their father died a year previous. This journey includes boarding a train (run by the company in the title) that is traveling across the country and stops from time to time to allow the brothers to partake in activities that are supposed to help them bond and find themselves. This journey is cut short with an incident involving painkillers, cough syrup and pepper spray that ends up with the brothers thrown off the train and left in the middle of India with nothing except 11 suitcases, a printer and a laminating machine.

As this is a Wes Anderson film you can expect fantastically written characters, quirky dialog, unusual situations, slow-mo shots, parental issues and deliberate pacing. Now, before I go into my issues with The Darjeeling Limited, I need to stress that this is a really good and well made film. I throughly enjoyed it and is well worth the €9-ish price of a ticket. My issues are not with the film as a separate entity, but as part of the Wes Anderson cannon.

Let's take the major themes of the film: a family that doesn't know how to communicate with each other, parents who have neglected or ignored their offspring, the seeking of a spiritual enlightenment, the way in which people deal with death. These are all themes that Anderson has covered many times over in Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic. This fact makes viewing The Darjeeling Limited an un-unique experience, and we don't feel as impressed or as refreshed as we were before. The film is still a good one, but it's just nothing new. A large part of me wishes that Anderson would try to explore different themes and attempt to go away from the machinations that he feels comfortable with and what make a "Wes Anderson film". That said, his next film is an adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox that's supposed to be mostly done using puppets and stop-motion animation (akin to some scene in The Life Aquatic), so maybe then will my appetite for something different will be sedated.

Repetitive issues aside, this is an engrossing film. The performances are excellent (including Owen Wilson who has never been as good as this in any film before) and the photography is top notch. To compare it to other Anderson works, it's as good as Rushmore, but not as enthralling or involving as The Royal Tenenbaums or The Life Aquatic.

Rating: * * * * (4 Stars)

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