Monday, February 18, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited ***1/2

Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson
Amara Karan, Wallace Wolodarsky, Waris Ahluwalia, Anjelica Huston

The Whitman brothers haven't spoken to each other in over a year. Their father passed away and their mother (Huston) has vanished. They get together in the title train in India, where Francis (Wilson), the eldest brother, has summoned them to go in a spiritual journey and find their bonds again.
Francis is a control freak who has made an itinerary and carefully had his assistant Brendan (Wolodarsky) plastify it.
Peter (Brody) is torn about the fact that he wants to leave his pregnant wife and Jack (Schwartzman) spends most of his time thinking about his ex-girlfriend (Natalie Portman featured in the beautiful prologue "Hotel Chevalier").
Like in any Anderson film you may come to expect stunning art direction and detailed character creation, Oedipical issues, a great soundtrack (here mostly composed of pieces from Satyajit Ray's films) and a haunting, bittersweet feeling that lingers inside you even after you wonder what the hell the film was all about.
Anyone might argue that the trip is only an element for Anderson to have his characters together, since it's their little misadventures in India that actually make the film so rich.
Peter hits on a stewardess (the lovely Karan), while Francis constantly checks his itinerary for ritual time and just when the film is feeling aimless there's a very un-Anderson twist that makes us reevaluate the whole experience.
While going to India for enlightment has become almost laughable, you know for a fact that Anderson could've set his story anywhere else and it would still be as touching.
The brothers never truly find themselves in a sappy way, but Anderson has found them even before they know it.
Wilson is amazing, his face, covered in bandages from a probable sucide attempt, is as eloquent as ever and Schwartzman's melancholic manner is simply lovable.
At first Brody seems like he doesn't fit the Anderson universe, sometimes you can see he's having so much fun that he can't hide it. But this differences only reassure us of how the Whitman brothers have stopped knowing each other.
Their characteristic distant gaze, the suits they wear, the constant smoking and the specific sibling dynamics always make us know that these men truly love each other and because of their shared traumas don't even know it.
"I wonder if the three of us would've been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people. " asks Francis during a key scene. They all look at each other and regret all the secrets they have been keeping, but which obviously speak not so much about distrust, but about trying to keep each other from suffering.
In a filmography that has gotten us used to a certain amount of minimalism, it is only now that Anderson's depth begins to impress. Almost as if it can't be contained anymore by the visual quirks and pitch perfect dialogues of its creator.
There are little events in the film (mostly powered by brilliant cameos) which speak of a bigger universe that Anderson, as his characters here, only now begin to acknowledge.
They say that life is mostly about the journey and never about the destination.
When boarding "The Darjeeling Limited" this couldn't be more true.

No comments: