Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited

Much smaller in scale than The Life Aquatic, a movie that felt like it was made simply to justify building a really awesome set. Wes Anderson's latest is fine enough though. I enjoyed it. But it sure as hell doesn't come close to the heights of Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums.

For starters, Jason Schwartzman, despite looking awesome in that 'stache just doesn't have the acting chops to pull off a role like this. And Owen Wilson, poor Owen Wilson just can't act. I like the guy. I feel bad for his breakdown and all but man was he not good in this movie. Chris Larry likened his performance to a bad parody of Owen Wilson on Saturday Night Live. I agree.

Only Adrien Brody could pull off the job needed amongst the three. Both he and Schwartzman were both trying to pull off a deadpan melancholy but only Brody could make it work. He was great in a Buster Keaton kind of way - saying a hell of a lot without many words.

And that might be the crux of it. Anderson and his entourage just don't have much to say apparently. Maybe he needs to adapt someone else's work. This is the third straight movie about the same thing. How about a genre piece in the way that the Coen Bros. do it. A Wes Anderson crime flick filtered through Godard's Breathless anyone?

The music felt forced compared to how much it carried his four previous films. I've had enough of slow motion montages set to the Kinks. Yes, they look good but it is the same damn thing everytime!

The movie did have some great moments though. The Wes Anderson universe set on a train was brilliant. The scene of each train car passing by was one of the more captivating moments I've seen all year. I loved a lot of the images of the movie especially the one of Schwartzman leaning out and noticing the Indian woman he fancied also leaning out.

Anderson said he was inspired by the films of Satyajit Ray during the making of this film. I didn't really get that. I get more of an American Francois Truffaut feel to Anderson's vibe. Small films that some deem a bit too precious. However, Truffaut really was able to capture a real emotional resonance with most of his films that I think both of his last two films have mostly failed at achieving. Was Rushmore Anderson's 400 Blows?

Is the Darjeeling short film prologue Hotel Chevalier Anderson's attempt to make an Antoine and Collette? Whatever it is, it was much better than the feature film that follows. It doesn't have much dialogue so Schwartzman's deadpan nature helps rather than hinders the whole thing. And Natalie Portman's extreme hotness doesn't hurt matters either.

And that reminds me of another problem with Darjeeling. Too many men. No major female characters. Anderson does a great job directing and writing parts for women. No dice in Darjeeling though.

Oh yeah, Hotel Chevalier was shot at Hotel Raphael in Paris. Maybe that's why I liked it so much. Download it for free on iTunes!

What did you think?

Directed by Wes Anderson


mas said...

You're right - better than the last one, but no match for the others. My main problem with the last two Anderson movies is that most of the characters are really unsympathetic if not just plain unlikeable.

I enjoyed the sequence with the car in New York more than most of what happened in India, and wished it had come earlier in the movie so I could actually care about the brothers instead of just feeling like they were a collection of meticulously-designed hairstyles and wardrobes disguised as characters.

The pins and badges in "Rushmore," art on the walls of the Tenenbaum house and even the jumpsuits in "Bottle Rocket" were quirks that seemed to enhance their stories and make them feel more complete, but lately things like Steve Zissou's specialty Adidas sneakers and the designer luggage in "Darjeeling" have felt more showy and distracting than anything else.

I usually get more out of his movies the second time around when I can pay more attention to details and less to following the plot, so I'll probably see it again at some point and maybe feel differently.

I did like his use of music from the Merchant Ivory and S. Ray movies, and agree that Natalie Portman is awesome (and superhot) in the short.

Listmaker said...

>just feeling like they were a collection of meticulously-designed hairstyles and wardrobes disguised as characters.

I love your writing. That is a great line! Your insight about the little touches in his earlier movies vs. the Adidas/suitcases, etc is an interesting one.

And to be more clear, I liked the music in the movie other than the some of the more forced 60's era stuff. Maybe he should have used just the other film stuff. It fit better. To have Schwartzman travel with an ipod dock is a convenient if not a bit forced way to get some hot Rolling Stones action in a movie that didn't need it.

Chris Larry said...

i do like owen wilson in general, but he was sleep walking through this movie...

i wish i could like it better...

actually the rolling stones montage was my fave scene although it was to similar to the boat montage in life aquatic....

Listmaker said...


i usually like schwartzman and wilson as well. just didn't think they could pull off what anderson wanted them to do.

i also liked the montage as well and am not necessarily saying no 60's music anymore in his films. the kinks slow mo bits were a bit too "wes andersony" for me though.

Jason said...

have not seen it yet, i basically only care about Anderson for his precious sets and use of music.
I did see Hotel Chevalier,, thought is was so so... something about natalie portman annoys the hell out of me... granted it is great seeing her slink around naked, and be rude and sassy.. but i can't get over her awkward posing and stupid haircut...
Oh and i stayed in the hotel raphael in 2000, I was assisting on a photoshoot.. It was awesome! and apparently haunted too.


Listmaker said...

oh man, i've got to go to the hotel raphael.

but i'm afraid of haunted things.