…as written in a text message to a friend while watching the movie:
“There is a lot of really awesome stuff about The Darjeeling Limited. It is also an unforgivably meandering and kind of deeply shitty movie. It’s more self-gazing and tickled by its own imagined awesomeness than Paris Hilton getting fucking in a hall of mirrors.”
Okay, well, granted, that text message is pretty tickled by its own imagined awesomeness too, but at least I didn’t make a movie out of it.
The movie is typical Wes Anderson. Have you seen those Wes Anderson AT&T commercials? Then you’ve pretty much seen his bag of tricks. And they’re getting weirder. Like Spike Lee and his floaty-walk cam, Wes loves building giant connected three-walled sets and craning the camera around from room to room. It’s as if a few years ago he finally saw a production of Noises Off and fell in love with the set. Or a sitcom taping. But, you know, it’s all just so finicky and anal and twee and it’s just getting really fucking repetative. (Let alone the recurring themes of smart siblings with way too money for their own good.) Sure, the camera-pans were neat for setting a tone and the location was interesting; great suits and luggage. Adrien Brody grounded the movie, lifting it out of just being watching Owen Wilson be Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman be Jason Schwartzman. And you have to really be excited about Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman and I just am not. Never have been. Not sure what there is to be excited about, to tell the truth. (I’m beginning to think the assumed talent level of the entire Coppola clan is far higher than the actual talent level. Yes Roman, who co-wrote the script, I’m looking at you.)
I’d like Wes Anderson to make a good movie again. And he certainly could. But he needs to pull a P.T. Anderson and try something radically different. Throw away his bag of tricks, realizing that everyone has seen them and that furthermore, they may not have ever been that great to begin with. He should also then hire Daniel Day Lewis and tell him to start growing a giant mustache.
But back to the movie. The main problem with The Darjeeling Limited is that there is no story. No driving action. It’s apt that at one point the train gets lost. Sure, big joke, how can a train on tracks get lost? But Wes only needs to turn that dolly he loves so much back around on himself to see he’s done metaphored the shit out of his own movie, right there. The brothers meander around India, fighting, smoking, taking pills, going through painfully choreographed scene after scene. Angelica Houston pops up at the end. There is an extended pointless flashback about trying to start a car. Adrien Brody buys a deadly cobra for no reason. Then they get booted from the train and Anderson pulls out a 101 story-telling trick. Have someone die. Unearned-gravitas later, they find their mom. And nothing happens there either. But then, right at the end of the movie, something amazing happens. It can be explained in this second text I wrote:
“They just literally shed all their baggage. IN SLO-MO. Really, Wes? Really?”
Oh yes, really. The boys throw their beloved baggage away, leaving it behind them and sit, free and light and together. Unburdened. And the viewer is left with a happy feeling as well: the happy feeling that comes from being able to shove that DVD back in its little red envelope, and drop it into the mailbox, knowing they won’t have to watch another Wes Anderson flick for about four years.
The movie opens with a cautionary scene that should be instructive to anyone thinking about watching the film. Bill Murray races to catch the train side-by-side with Adrien Brody. Brody makes the train, but Bill Murray does not. Bill Murray Will Not Be In This Movie, Anderson tells us. I Don’t Need Him.
It’s ballsy. But ballsy mostly because he’s clearly wrong.