Talking Movies

November 27, 2019

From the Archives: The Darjeeling Limited

From the pre-Talking Movies archives.

Three estranged brothers travel thru India on a spiritual journey, a year after their father’s death. But it quickly becomes less conciliatory than hoped for.

This is a Wes Anderson movie for people who hate Wes Anderson movies. The trademark whip-pans are present and correct but here the story doesn’t feel constrained by them. The tracking shots between rooms through walls that blighted The Life Aquatic by sheer overuse are quite charming here. Hell, even Bill Murray, who runs for and misses the titular train in the hilarious opening sequence, uses more facial expressions in his cameo than in the entirety of The Life Aquatic. It is a truly wonderful moment when we go into slow-motion as Murray hopelessly sprints for the train and a very distinctive nose emerges beside him as Adrien Brody overtakes him, catching the train at the last possible second. Watching the impossibly gangly Brody run in slow-motion is almost reason enough to see this film.

Brody steals the acting honours, as you might expect. As Peter, a man unsure if he’s really ready to have a child (because of his own troubled upbringing), haunted by the death of his father a year previous, and extremely wary of his older brother, he is nuanced and engaging. Surprisingly Owen Wilson (swathed in bandages throughout) is close behind him as the domineering older brother Francis, whose attempts at reconciliation on this spiritual pilgrimage are thwarted by his own controlling personality which has made detailed itineraries for them all. Jason Schwartzman is in the film. Why? He and his cousin co-wrote it. As the youngest brother, the failed author Jack, he is the weak link of the film but not even his blankness can detract from The Darjeeling Limited’s truly magical quirkiness.

The spiritual journey thru India inevitably goes wrong and, amidst much sibling bickering, the trio are thrown off the train. Anderson at this point casts in the stuff of real drama to the mix, with a revealing extended flashback to the funeral of the brothers’ father a year earlier, and the result is surprisingly affecting. Anjelica Huston’s subsequent cameo as their mother is quite magnificently fitting and leads to an enigmatic tracking shot of imaginary connections between characters in the film that is wonderfully sweet and sums up the charm of the whole enterprise as the brothers do finally arrive at a sort of spiritual epiphany and reconciliation with each other as a result of all their mishaps. It’s a pity Anderson prefaces this film with his execrable short Hotel Chevalier, which will be screened before this in all cinemas. You do not need to see it to enjoy The Darjeeling Limited. It is a cheap exploitation flick whose sole purpose is to showcase Natalie Portman’s first and last nude scene as she was horrified to find that for months the only part of the short film that was leaked onto the internet was her nude scenes. The Darjeeling Limited itself is endearing and substantial, get a ticket.

3/5

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