Photograph courtesy of ©Twentieth Century Fox/i>
THE THREE STOOGES OUT EAST: Owen Wilson (left), Jason Schwartzman (center) and Adrien Brody invade India in 'The Darjeeling Limited.'
In 'The Darjeeling Limited," nothing is more important than an American's angst
By Richard von Busack
DURING THE end titles for The Darjeeling Limited, when you realize "That was it, that was the movie," director Wes Anderson holds the camera out of the window of an Indian train and lets it run. The scenery, at last, speaks for itself. The film is a Three Stooges story without humor. Three New York brothers, hostile after a year's separation, are enlisted by their controlling eldest, Francis (Owen Wilson). This well-off businessman treats them all to a train journey. This largesse is the result of a life-changing experience: a motorcycle accident that's left him covered in grisly bandages. (Wilson's personal problems need not be mentioned. We all know that life copies art.) Suave brother Jack (Jason Schwartzman, with a Ringo Starr mustache), has been writing in Paris. 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 evokes decaying colonial splendor with its idols and icons—the dining car glitters with swaying, tinkling 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.
None of this is especially funny, although 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 sort of amusing right side up, but somehow Anderson thinks that he's really droll when he's inverted.
The Darjeeling Limited is inflated with dead air. A flashback to New York illustrates a nigh—pointless anecdote about why the brothers missed an important event. In one scene, the brothers board a bus but are pulled off by a last—minute invitation to a rural funeral; here is where they get to "touch Indians," in Albert Brooks' phrase from Lost in America. Afterward, they climb aboard a different bus. Two scenes have done the work of one.
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; 92 min.), directed by Wes Anderson, written by Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, photographed by Robert D. Yeoman and starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman, opens Oct. 12 at CinéArts Palo Alto and Santana Row.
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