Photograph by James Hamilton
Tracks of My Tears: Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody are three estranged brothers who take their pity party to the railway in 'The Darjeeling Limited.'
Review: The Darjeeling Limited
Will someone make these Gen Xers shut up?
By Richard von Busack
During the end titles of The Darjeeling Limited, when you realize That was it, that was the movie, Wes Anderson holds the camera out of an Indian train window and lets it run. The scenery, at last, speaks for itself. A list of names of Indian crew members crawls up, making you feel that at least some deserving people got money. Also, we learn the script was a three-part collaboration between director Wes Anderson, Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola.Too bad Francis Coppola's children Roman (of the space-age '60s pastiche CQ) and Sofia (of Marie Antoinette) aren't the children of the director who made The Godfather. They're the children of the director who made One From the Heart.
And Wes Anderson's new film The Darjeeling Limitedmakes him that kind of honorary Coppola. It's a Three Stooges story without humor. A trio of New York brothers, hostile after a year's separation, are enlisted by their controlling eldest, Francis (Owen Wilson). This well-off businessman is treating them all to a train journey, his largesse the result of a life-changing motorcycle accident that's left him covered in grisly bandages. (Owen Wilson's personal problems off-camera need not be mentioned. We all know that life copies art.) His suave brother Jack (Jason Schwartzman, with a Ringo Starr mustache), has been writing in Paris, as seen in Anderson's Internet short Hotel Chevalier. Brother Peter (Adrien Brody) is dealing with his impending fatherhood by high-tailing it to India. The three keep and reveal secrets about one another, but their destination is clear. Francis wants to track down their mother (Anjelica Huston), who ran off to become a nun.
Paul Theroux fans will love the toy train Anderson creates here, painted a cheerful dusty turquoise and swathed in vintage advertising graphics. It's made to look like decaying colonial splendor, with its idylls and icons and its dining car glittering with swaying chandeliers. A sloe-eyed "stewardess" (Amara Karan) carries dainty glasses of limeade for these three anhedonic American sahibs.
None of them have eyes for it. All three brothers are stoned out on mutual despair and over-the-counter narcotics. They rally a little at villages with bazaars where you can purchase curly leather slippers and live souvenir cobras. And it's all not especially funny. Brody does something that gets a regular laugh, when he leans upside-down from his bunk to join in with a confab of his brothers; Brody is funny right side up, but somehow he becomes really droll when he's inverted.
And The Darjeeling Limited is inflated with dead air. Even Anderson's excellent ear for British Invasion music seems off this time. The raid on the Kinks Lola Vs. Powerman album is deft. But the Stones' harpsichord-iced "Play With Fire," overlaid on a family therapy session, sticks out like a sore hitchhiker's thumb.
Anderson's unbelievably basic symbolism must seem pure to his fans. It's not just him, though—it's all over literature today. Check Melvin Jules Bukiet's American Scholar article "Wonder Bread" regarding Paul Auster, Dave Eggers and The Lovely Bones, among others, lit in which burbling magical realism is used to cure the psychic maladies of brattus suburbicanus literarius. Anderson is at one with them all. He's 38 years old, and he's still making the same damned movie about how he's unable to love because his parents were distant.
The larger canvas of India is blocked by three blocked figures hauling their symbolic trunks: color-coordinated Louis Vuitton suitcases, customized for this film. They're pretty, but they might as well have "EMOTIONAL LUGGAGE" stenciled on them. Wilson's gory face tells us all, but then his Francis looks in a bathroom mirror and says, "I guess I have more healing to do." Another member of the Gen X walking wounded—a phrase to be used with caution by people who have never heard a shot fired in anger.
THE DARJEELING LIMITED (R; 91 min.), directed by Wes Anderson, written by Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman and starring Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody, opens Friday at the Nickelodeon in Santa Cruz.
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