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The Darjeeling Limited /

Rated: R

Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Camilla Rutherford, Amara Karan

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Produced by: Steve M. Rales, Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin

Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Owen Wilson , Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody  in Fox Searchlight's The Darjeeling Limited
Adrien Brody , Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman in Fox Searchlight's The Darjeeling Limited
Jason Schwartzman , Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson in Fox Searchlight's The Darjeeling Limited

     Despite carrying a “love him or hate him” reputation as a writer/director in Hollywood, eccentric filmmaker Wes Anderson had never made a movie that provided me a reason to feel strongly in one way or another about his career before his latest picture, The Darjeeling Limited. From Bottle Rocket to Rushmore to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, all of the filmmaker’s efforts seemed to leave me feeling indifferently. Even after responding favorably to Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums back in 2001, I still wasn’t able to conjure up any emotions concerning his work. I was on the fence about the guy’s style, admiring its notable cleverness while recognizing the fact that it lacked much-needed senses of consequence and context.

     The Darjeeling Limited has finally provided me the answer as to whether or not Anderson has in him the ability to make a masterpiece, and this answer is not encouraging. The film may contain much of the same quirky, creative dialogue that has distinguished the filmmaker’s previous pictures, but clearly shows that he hasn’t the faintest sense of purpose in his work. That Anderson’s past efforts were able to at least appear as though they were of some significance is a testament to how involving and fresh said dialogue was. The Darjeeling Limited exposes the hollowness of the writer/director’s oeuvre. Now that the initially shocking charm of Anderson’s knack for verbal irony and witty vernacular has worn off, it becomes readily apparent in this film that he has little of substance to say about his characters or the story that they embody.

     As The Darjeeling Limited plods along, it becomes progressively unbearable. When we first meet the main characters—admittedly basic rehashes of those in other Anderson films—they are able to come across as being relatively charming. The film’s central trio consists of three brothers: Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman). After not seeing each other since the death of their father, they all get together to take a train-trip through India that Francis has planned for them. Each has their quirks, as all Anderson characters do, and these are amusing for awhile. When the three are confined to the train and merely engage in small-talk (what Anderson does best) amongst themselves, the movie is entertaining. The main problem with the film is that its plot only focuses on the brothers’ time on the locomotive for so long.

     When Francis, Peter, and Jack are finally kicked off the train by its compulsive Chief Steward (Waris Ahluwalia), the material wears quickly. It becomes clear that Anderson’s exercise doesn’t have a refined enough thesis to be considered effective. (He dabbles in themes relating to loss, kinship, and country, but never hones in on any of them.) During the second half of the picture, there are scenes involving a death and a climactic meeting between the brothers and their socially-strained mother, but these sincere moments carry no apparent resonance to the picture on the whole. As a result, the once appreciably quirky dialogue present soon becomes irritating due to its sheer inconsequence. Before the film was over, I ended up hating the trio because there was frankly no reason for them to talk in the circles that they do. As soon as the viewer realizes that the obscure, uncanny style of speech that has become Anderson’s Signature has no clear reason for existing in this film, the gimmick annoys far more than it delights or mystifies (as it has in the past, when it seemed to have greater relevance to the story).

     I wanted to love The Darjeeling Limited; it very well could’ve been Anderson’s best film had he worked to develop any sense of authenticity to support the material. It’s a shame that the movie ends up being so aimless because it has so much going for it. Wilson, Brody, and Schwartzman are all great at inventing their characters, but the script’s lack of definition provides the actors no room to develop said characters. Anderson vividly depicts the people and places of India, but doesn’t use them to accomplish anything in terms of the film’s narrative or its thematic values. Ultimately, The Darjeeling Limited fails to affect the viewer in any positive way whatsoever. It has extinguished any curiosity I may have felt for Anderson’s work in the past; I am not especially looking forward to his next picture.

-Danny Baldwin, Bucket Reviews

Review Published on: 10.17.2007

Screened on: 10.14.2007 at the Landmark Hillcrest Cinemas in San Diego, CA.


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