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Oct 15, 2007

Fletch's Film Review: The Darjeeling Limited

They say that familiarity breeds contempt.

I wouldn't go that far when describing Wes Anderson's fifth feature, The Darjeeling Limited, but I will say that familiarity, with not only Anderson's style but with his repertoire of actors, breeds...well, exactly the feeling that Anderson's films usually give me: nostalgic melancholy (or is that melancholic nostalgia?).

This is all a long way of saying two things. First, that, Anderson needs to branch out or change some things up lest he be deemed irrelevant in the near future, and second, that the audience's familiarity with Owen Wilson (and his suicide attempt), star or co-star in four of the five Anderson features, lends a certain sadness to the film, not to mention serving as a giant distraction.

Primarily, though, it's that Limited feels as though it's been done before, and by Anderson. Personally, I love the group of actors (and the choice of music Anderson uses) that includes Jason Schwartzman, both Wilson brothers, Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, et al, but when so many of them are together (and even sharing some of the same dynamics from the earlier films), Darjeeling is put in a handicap prior to the first frame being shown. Toss in a few slow-motion "meaningful" walking/running scenes set to early punk/Britpop, and you have the recipe for a film that looks a lot like something you've already seen. (However, at the risk of sounding like a hypocrite, I must add that this outing felt a bit minimalist, almost like Anderson-lite, and could have benefited from more of his signature obsessive attention-to-detail. There are a few instances here, like the father's luggage that is fought over by the three brothers, but that's about it.)

Despite the way this must sound, I did enjoy The Darjeeling Limited and would like to see it again. However lacking it may be in originality and story (there isn't much of one), it makes up for it in a number of ways, from the writing to the setting to the likability and charm of its three stars (Brody is a welcome addition, though isn't given much to work with). Additionally, there are some surprises - Wilson's real life events notwithstanding, there is a heavier emphasis on emotion, manifested mostly in an extended sequence involving an out-of-nowhere tragedy and a flashback showing the brothers prior to their estrangement.

In the end, though, your familiarity with Anderson's work with probably most reflect your take on Darjeeling. Namely, the more you've seen (and presumably liked), the more disappointed you'll be this time. Conversely, if you're a relative newcomer, you just might notice more than a grizzled veteran would, as we are no doubt somewhat immune to his filmmaking wizardry. And if you never liked his work before? Well, you probably won't like this, either.

Fletch's Film Rating:

"You seem a decent fellow. I hate to kill you."

8 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: The Darjeeling Limited"

joen05 said...

Great Review again Fletch! I've been kept out of the movies for a while, and I keep running into movies that I want to see because of you! If only I had more time, and a car to get to the movie theatre...

Diesel said...

I think Wes Anderson has gone steadily downhill since Bottle Rocket. Well, and then there was that abrupt downward move with The Life Aquatic.

DCMovieGirl said...

What about his use of Indians, is it as bad as the Slate article indicated?

Fletch said...

@diesel: You dare say Bottle Rocket is better than either Rushmore or Tenenbaums? Blashpemy. I like it, but it ranks fourth or fifth for me.

@dcmoviegirl: I'm dying for you to see it so we can debate this more. Thanks to you, I went in with a more discerning eye, watching for any abject objectification. I could see some arguments here and there, but I could also refute all of those arguments (the price of being a Libra...).

* (asterisk) said...

I may well see this, but Life Aquatic seriously burned me. After three outstanding films (with Rushmore undoubtedly his crowning glory), Anderson came up with that?! Utterly irritating it was. Let's hope Darjeeling is a return to form.

DCMovieGirl said...


Shoulda' known you were a Libra, about 90% of my friends are and I we mostly disagree about stuff...

But, I'm odd, I tend to like that. :)

You can't grow surrounding yourself with head-nodders.

I will eventually get to Darjeeling...But I will tell you, what I'm working on because it REALLY got me thinking...Black Book.

Later, Fletch. :)


Fletch said...

Disagree with Libras? How dare you! You aren't a Cancer by chance, are you?

Black Book was good. I'm pissed because Lee's Lust, Caution is getting all this attention when it's really just Black Book all over again, but apparently with much more sex. Meh.

Tony Tanti said...

My experience with this movie was quite different. I actually thought it was the best Anderson movie I've seen. The creative camera angles that the train setting allowed him to use were fascinating and the comedy and emotion of Darjeeling hit me harder than any of his other work.

Anyway, if there's anything I know for sure it's that everyone experiences movies differently, this one was great to me.