Monday, October 15, 2007

C’mon ride the train

When three estranged brothers agree to meet on a train in India to go on a “spiritual journey,” they get exactly what they bargained for – even if they don’t quite realize it. After a year-long separation, Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) have agreed to meet their older brother, Francis (Owen Wilson) on the Darjeeling Limited to pick up where their brotherhood left off.

Each coming on board with their separate sets of problems, Francis’s commanding head injury, Jack’s recent relationship breakup, and Peter’s forthcoming fatherhood, “The Darjeeling Limited” takes a (sometimes comical) look at three brothers’ preoccupied struggles with themselves.

While there is no “star” of the movie, that position might belong to Schwartzman – Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” muse, who here becomes his writing partner (the two penning the script alongside Roman Coppola).

“The Darjeeling Limited” reads like a nice short story – Denis Johnson’s “Emergency” comes to mind – simple on the surface but with dramatic underpinnings. The plot is not unduly complicated, though many of the details are nicely interwoven – resurfacing at just the right moment. The look, score, and feel of the movie are all Anderson – his clever uniform-like costuming, his moody, moving music – here the touch isn’t heavy-handed or complex, as in “The Life Aquatic,” but finds just the right balance.

The film moves carefully, relishing the in-between moments, like the look on a character’s face (particularly Adrien Brody’s), and maximizing things like bright colors and smoky cigarettes, which become much more than part of the background scenery.

It’s chock full of character idiosyncrasies and nice details – like Francis’s inherited ordering speech pattern, and the ubiquitous iPod, which makes the background musical score seem natural (simultaneously making a cultural comment, and perhaps plugging Apple, whose iTunes service released the Anderson short “Hotel Chevalier” for free when it was decided that the short would not accompany “Darjeeling” in theaters).

Ultimately, the success of “The Darjeeling Limited” is owed to its simplicity of story. There is an almost mathematical plot arc, but the feelings and details – like the buying of a poisonous snake or the seduction of the train’s stewardess – are just zany enough to transfix us.

This is not a film to go to expecting hilarious hijinks, pratfalls, or slapstick surprises – if that’s what you want, just watch the trailer for “The Heartbreak Kid” again, but remind yourself that it was Wes Anderson’s “Royal Tennenbaums” that made Ben Stiller worth watching – not the other way around.

1 comment:

Jenn said...

That must be the only moment in the movie when all three of them were smiling...