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7/10 Siblings make a connection while traveling on a train through India. As Brody said, "Here's your belt." LOL
Wes Anderson. In the top five of best directors
An absolutely wonderful film from the brilliant mind of Wes Anderson. I hate to sound like one of those types who praises the films of their favorite filmmakers always-no-matter-what, but damn, Wes Anderson makes a good film. I will admit, The Life Aquatic was a little flat emotionally, and was more concerned with its visual quirks than telling a human story, but this film has so much heart, it almost compliments The Life Aquatic. It is a superb piece of work by the most exciting American filmmaker working today.

A very unsatisfying film for moi. The one-dimensional Owen Wilson has become a total bore. Jason Schwartzman was a big disappointment. Bill Murray and Angelica Huston had irrelevant cameos in order to satisfy the plot, which was a bore as well. But hey, the crowd at the Union Square Cinema clapped and cheered at the end. One look around, from out of my stupor, I noticed I was the only old person there and most likely did not "get" the film and its spiritual quest. Advice to the young: There are better gurus than these clowns. Wes Anderson has made some real shit on a shingle for any wanting cinephile. Please do not attempt to persuade me otherwise. I already feel I wasted ninety minutes of the rest of my life, and every second counts.
October 5, 2007

Wes Anderson films are peculiar in the way they're always predictable yet never predictably told. For the most part, it's easy to guess where his characters will end up, but not so much how they'll end up that way, and that's what makes them so fun to watch. Anderson can be considered a genre director, sure, but his style steps outside the boundaries and allows viewers to enjoy his films in ways that now seem exclusive to the director.

Like many, I was not much a fan of Anderson's last film, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," in which Bill Murray played an oceanographer seeking revenge against a shark who ate his parter. It's not that I didn't enjoy looking at the film or experiencing it in parts, but I remember not laughing very much or being overly moved. Anderson had steered off course after the uproarious "Rushmore" and affecting "The Royal Tenenbaums."

But now he's back on track with "The Darjeeling Limited," another quirky and offbeat comedy/drama in which three brothers--Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack Whitman (Jason Schwartzman)--embark on a journey across India for a "spiritual quest" aboard a train called, appropriately, The Darjeeling Limited.

Francis is the organizer and leader of the group, though his brothers get annoyed by the former and don't exactly agree with the latter. He's gathered them all together because he wants them to become brothers again. Since their father's death a year ago, the three have drifted apart, though you can tell their weakening relationships began before their father's funeral. Their mother Patricia (Anjelica Huston) has also been out of the picture, so all three brothers have an emotional void to fill.

The movie opens with a cab zigzagging through the streets of India with an anxious-looking passenger sitting in back (played by none other than Bill Murray). He gets out and runs to catch The Darjeeling Limited departing from the station. Then, in slow motion, Peter suddenly runs into frame and is the only one able to catch up to the caboose.

Peter doesn't really want to be on this trip, but his hurrying to get onboard introduces one of the movie's themes of people only being in places because they feel they have to, not because they want to. Francis is the only one with any real desire to spend time with his siblings. He has a compulsion to be in control, going so far as to hire an assistant named Brendan (Wallace Wolodarsky), who types up and laminates each day's itinerary.

Francis arrives on the train with his face practically in shambles, which sets up for one of the movie's funniest lines when he explains what happened to him and also one of the most emotional when he later reveals what really happened to him.

The real reason Francis has gathered Peter and Jack together is surprisingly not the emotional climax of the movie, even though we expect it to be. That comes after an incident related to a river rescue, and what happens after that is so moving, unexpected, sad and beautiful all at the same time that it could have made a short film all its own. Look for the reaction on Peter's face aboard a crowded bus before he's asked to get off. For the first time in a long time, he feels needed. This is ironic since his girlfriend back home is pregnant with his child.

There's also a flashback scene that fits in well because it allows us to get to know (and like) the characters on deeper level, so much so that I walked away as if I really knew who these people were, and still wanted to learn more. Unlike the characters in "Life Aquatic," who seemed more like caricatures, the brothers in "Darjeeling" felt real and sincere, troubled and misunderstood. Each brother has a secret he doesn't want the other two to know about, and if they're to make it as a family, they have to start trusting each other.

One thing about Wes Anderson films is they're soothing to look at. He always uses the same cinematographer, the great Robert D. Yeoman, who again photographs using deeply saturated colors, all of which contain and evoke a certain mood. Observe the orange couches in the railway cars; or the deep browns of the desert where Francis, Peter and Jack eventually find themselves stranded; or the animal patterns on their luggage; or Peter's pink boxer shorts. These aren't just pretty or funny images; they open each scene and charcter up to interpretation.

I also loved the way Anderson placed his camera atop moving machinery, including the side of the train and the back of a car. This, coupled with his choices of lesser known songs from British Invasion bands, including The Rolling Stones and The Kinks, make his movies different and more fresh to take in.

To be fair, some of Anderson's stylistic choice do get a little old, including his use of slow motion. Sure, the slo-mo shots look neat, but when you re-use a strategy like this too often it loses its power and simply becomes something to look at.

And nothing against Bill Murray, but was there a reason to have him, of all actors, in the movie? Sure, it's a nice nod to Murray's previous roles in Anderson's other films (Murray has appeared in all but "Bottle Rocket"), but that's just the thing--it feels too much like a nod to make us aware we're watching a Wes Anderson movie. Frankly, I didn't need the reminder.

For many, a Wes Anderson film is an event, and in a way that's valid since he only makes a picture once every three years. "The Darjeeling Limited" reminded me of what can be fascinating about him and why I never have to worry his movies won't at least be interesting. His movies always provide something to look at and listen to, but his best are the ones that also make us feel. Despite its minor flaws, that's something "The Darjeeling Limited" does.
"The Darjeeling Limited," the new film from director Wes Anderson, has a short running time and is short on both humor and meaning. I found it mildly enjoyable, not enough to recommend it to anyone, except perhaps diehard Wes Anderson fans. I for one am not an Anderson fan.

I consider him to have only a very minor talent. I'm quite stunned that he's become an A-list indie filmmaker, because I don't think his work comes anywhere near the quality level of someone like Laurie Collyer or Karen Moncrieff, who have generated nowhere near the star power that Anderson has.

The best I can say for Anderson is that he has great style. His films are always offbeat and deadpan in a way that I find funny and sweet. His characters are endearing oddballs who are quietly going about their business and trying to reach vaguely defined objectives. Many of them amble about amiably, with no real sense of direction, but with a certain generosity of soul and warm fellow-feeling.

They often have strange but harmless quirks, such as needing to have everyone sit along the edges of a room or dressing their children in the same outfits. I love the way Anderson presents these idiosyncrasies affectionately. I wish America were as gentle and eccentric as Anderson's films make it out to be.

"The Darjeeling Limited" is no exception on this front. Owen Wilson plays a lovable oddball who has invited his gentle, endearingly non-conformist brothers to take a train trip across India. They are supposed to all meet at a specific train station in India at an appointed time. Miraculously, they all show up. Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody play the other brothers.

Wilson's stated objective is to have the brothers rebuild their relationship and take a "spiritual journey" together. He has an ulterior motive that comes out halfway through the film, which I won't give away. But I will say that it involves the actress Anjelica Huston, whom it was glorious to see on a screen again after a painfully long absence. (Why does Huston never get work?! She is one of the most under-rated actresses in America.)

My standard problem with Anderson films is that all you get is an affectionate portrayal of oddballs. I need my goofballs to be involved in a situation that matters. There needs to be some drama they're associated with that has meaning. Characterization certainly isn't enough. This is where Anderson can't deliver. Or perhaps it's not an inability but some kind of twisted philosophical objection to narrative. I so tire of that philosophy.

Whether it's by design or stems from an inability to conceive meaningful narratives, whatever the reason, Anderson here once again creates great characters, puts them in great locales (seeing rural India on-screen was fantastic), but gives them almost nothing to do.

"I love you, too, but I'm gonna mace you in the face!"

Go on a spiritual journey with the Whitman brothers in India for a wacky ride!!

I thought this film's main theme was spiritual malaise esp. afflicting Americans... tragedy appearing comic in the vanity/pretensions of a character. All Wes Anderson's films have dealt with that, though never quite as explicitly with the spiritual / or lack thereof. "I'm going to go pray in another thingie." "We came here on a spiritual journey, but it didn't really pan out."

I think this is a film worth seeing.
The Darjeeling Limited

Lightning Bug centers around a boy named Green Graves (Bret Harrison). Green is from a small town in the south, but dreams about making monsters for movies in Hollywood. The things that hold Green back are the "monsters" in his own life. These include his town's church (who decide that Green must be a satanist if he likes monster movies) and his mother's boyfriend, an alcoholic and abusive figure.

I've read quite a few rave reviews from fans of this little independent film, but I just didn't find the story particularly moving or the performances to be all that great. I felt that this pretty short movie dragged along the whole way. Also, was the whole supporting character liking his cousin story line necessary? I know the film takes place in the South, but really? Did that add anything to the story?
Much like The Life Aquatic, it's a mix of strengths and weaknesses. Both movies are blessed with quirky, creative scripts, yet in both cases the storylines are just not that interesting and the characters aren't as fleshed out as they should be. There's plenty of pleasant moments in The Darjeeling Limited, but for every one of those, you can find an instant of dullness as well, so it's a mixed bag, really. I'd say that maybe it's slightly better than The Life Aquatic, but not by much.
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