Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...
Maybe I have TV Land on the brain, but director Wes Anderson's new film, The Darjeeling Limited, has more in common with Gilligan's Island than you might initially think. Both involve a trip that takes unexpected twists and turns in an unfamiliar land, each character is slightly off in some quirky yet lovable way, and everyone wants to go home but can't just yet.
Rather than a full cast of island characters, The Darjeeling Limited focuses on three brothers: Francis (Owen Wilson), the eldest, who arranges a trip through India for his brothers; Peter (Adrien Brody), who leaves his nearly eight-month pregnant wife at home; and the youngest, broken-hearted Jack (Jason Schwartzman). Even though the trio has not spoken since their father's funeral a year before, when summoned by Francis, the brothers meet up on a train, the Darjeeling Limited, for a spiritual journey across India.
Since Anderson is the man who brought us that other odd-bunch, The Royal Tenenbaums, it's correct to assume he has created another colorful cast of characters. Each brother is tragically flawed in some critical way. Or perhaps it's better to say that each is broken and trying to mend. There are the obvious problems -- a recent car accident that has scarred Francis, Peter's fear of becoming a father, Jack's girlfriend problems -- but it's evident that something much more fundamental is at the root of their problems.
Thanks to Anderson's great vision, it's a joy watching the three meander towards a destination. They take the adage that not all who wander are lost and turn it on its head. They're wandering a little less than it seems and are a little more lost than they know. However, all along the way, you can't help but think that they're exactly where they should be.
Despite all the press he's gotten lately for personal reasons, Wilson has much to be proud of -- his performance in the film is outstanding. As the mastermind behind the plans, Francis is at once in charge and completely batty. Wilson's deadpan humor and ability to make crazy look sane provides the character a perfect balance.
As good as Wilson is, it's Schwartzman who steals the movie. One of the writers of the screenplay along with Anderson and Roman Coppola, Schwartzman is responsible for taking the zany plot to a more serious, engaging level. In only one scene -- just a couple lines of dialogue -- the absurd becomes heartbreaking and Jack reveals the pain fueling his actions.
Similarly, Brody's moment of revelation as Peter must take responsibility for his actions is gut-wrenching and beautifully handled. The film doesn't wallow in these moments of seriousness, but a true spiritual journey must be taken with some level of gravitas.
Some faces familiar to Anderson's films make brief appearances, including Anjelica Huston, who plays the boys' mother. Huston's part is critical to the film, but understated all the same. Ultimately, she manages to come off as the type of mom to raise such odd sons.
The film is actually Part 2 of The Darjeeling Limited; the first part is a short film, Hotel Chevalier, starring Schwartzman and Natalie Portman. The short is set in Paris and takes places two weeks before the feature length portion. Available at www.hotelchevalier.com, it's a great preview to the film or, even better, a way to get more from the film after you've seen it.
|The Darjeeling Limited
Starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman
It's safe to say that Anderson has a unique sense of humor. If his other films weren't your cup of tea, it's doubtful that The Darjeeling Limited will change your mind. In his latest venture, the director relies on some of his old tricks, but infuses the film with the culture and flavor of India to create a whole new experience for fans. Not only are you being dropped into a new country, but a whole new world. Like Francis, Peter and Jack, you might not know where you're going, but enjoy the spiritual journey for the adventure.