The following is from the Sept. 27 issue of satirical newspaper, The Onion:
"Fans who attended a sneak preview Monday of critically acclaimed director Wes Anderson's newest project, The Darjeeling Limited, were surprised to learn that the film features a deadpan comedic tone, highly stylized production design, and a plot centering around unresolved family issues. 'What will he think of next?' audience member Michael Cauley said."
Okay -- that's just cruel. Also accurate.
We no longer pretend to understand Wes Anderson's movies, but we can assure you that The Darjeeling Limited is pretty to look at, and quite self-aware of that prettiness. The movie, which appears to be a lengthy luggage commercial, centres on three brothers who take a train trip together in India to try to overcome their differences.
Owen Wilson is Francis, the oldest brother. He has organized the train trip the boys are on and he is bossy in an oldest-brother fashion that is one source of humour in the film. Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman are the other brothers. Jason Schwartzman is obsessing over a girlfriend. Adrien Brody has a pregnant wife and many misgivings about his marriage.
The men are meant to be taking a spiritual journey. They agree to explore the unknown.
Schwartzman has a quickie with the train hostess. Wilson buys a poisonous snake. The brothers like to drink cough syrup and are interested in medication of every kind.
They talk about their relationship with their mother, who seems to have disappeared after the death of their father. As for the father, the brothers squabble over which of them he loved most. Sigh.
The Darjeeling Limited is close to slapstick at some moments and to melodrama at others -- the brothers witness a child's death, for example, and mourn the boy with the locals in his village. None of it rings true; the unifying element is self-consciousness.
There is one appealing chapter near the end of The Darjeeling Limited when the boys are reunited with their mother (Anjelica Huston).
Otherwise, the storytelling is hampered by an oddly puerile attitude and an insider stance that leaves a viewer feeling as if there's a party going on -- and he wasn't invited.
In The Darjeeling Limited, the men travel with a very complicated set of luggage that once belonged to their father. In this story of family baggage, the various suitcases and valises are something they learn to let go of. Much has been made of this Marc Jacobs-designed Louis Vuitton luggage, perhaps because it figures so prominently in the story.
It's a clever visual metaphor for the excesses of new money, but just who the filmmakers are mocking remains a mystery.
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