October 18, 2007

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The Darjeeling Limited (R)
Three brothers travel through India on a forced spiritual journey in The Darjeeling Limited, the latest movie by Wes Anderson, a writer/director whom I freely admit I love but who needs, just a little bit, to get over himself.

Francis (Owen Wilson) corralled his brothers Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) into a train trip across India on the Darjeeling Limited, a sort of colonial-era fantasy about travel filled with exotic people and dťcor. While Francis tries to excite the guys with his high-pressure fun, Jack (who is to meet up with a girlfriend in Italy) makes time with a stewardess named Rita (Amara Karan) and Peter covertly tries to pocket items that belonged to his father. The men tote around an enormous set of luggage that was their fatherís; it was at his funeral a year earlier that they last saw each other. We donít trust each other, one brother suggests as a reason that they arenít friends. But each is dealing with assorted heartaches that might actually get better if they could lean on each other: Francis has rather dramatic head wounds that (as a pre-Wilsonís-real-life-troubles trailer explained) are likely self-inflicted; Peter is expecting a child; Jack is rudderless. The brothers are also still upset by the abandonment of their mother (Angelica Huston) who, as we soon learn, wasnít at their fatherís funeral and is hiding out somewhere in India.

And thatís pretty much it. The brothers quarrel through the worldís most shallow spiritual journey until tragedy forces them to be just a milliliter more serious.

More than any other Wes Anderson movie, I think you have to enjoy the rhythms of a Wes Anderson movie to enjoy this movie and have it not drive you nuts even. His characters are on the quirky side, his imagery (thereís a whole ďletting go of baggageĒ metaphor thatís almost a parody of movie symbolism)is on the obvious side, his cinematography is a bit stagy, his soundtrack is characteristically strange and perfectly suited to the movie. I do think Wes Anderson has better movies in him and might find them if he let go of some of his own tics. The defiant weirdness of Schwartzmanís character in Rushmore seems more like a pose as he and Anderson get older.

The humor here is dry, sad, quiet ó and I liked it. I liked it all. Itís less sprawling than The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and itís not as heavy as The Royal Tennenbaums. Itís not a great movie but in its strangeness a thoroughly enjoyable one. B-

Rated R for language. Directed by Wes Anderson and written by Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, The Darjeeling Limited is an hour and 31 minutes long and is distributed by Fox Searchlight. The movie is currently playing at theaters in the Boston area and is expected to screen in New Hampshire in the coming weeks. There is a 13-minute short film (sort of a prequel to The Darjeeling Limited) called Hotel Chevalier which is available free on iTunes.