Quirkiness is everywhere, especially in India.
In the wake of their father’s death, three brothers (Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman) embark on a steam-engine journey across India aboard the Darjeeling Limited and attempt to reconnect after years of physical and emotional distance. The trip also opens up old wounds and proves that the base instincts of sibling rivalry can never be completely erased.
Writer/director Wes Anderson is just one of those dudes that you either love or hate, although it’s weird with me. I don’t love him but I can definitely say that he has made some great flicks as well as some ones that maybe aren’t so splendid. This one is definitely placed in the latter.
The original premise is what you would expect from Anderson, and much like the plot, so is the rest of the film. All of Anderson’s quirks and signatures are here such as the running in slow-motion to a 60’s rock song, a Rolling Stones song coming on, very vibrant colors, family issues, and plenty of other strange things happening that we have to come to know and sometimes love with his flicks. This isn’t a huge disappointment to see since these signatures are what separates his rather generic story-lines from many other familiar ones out there. What the problem with this flick is that it’s uneven and really meanders during the middle act. I don’t know what was the problem here but the script didn’t hit any marks whatsoever whether it came to comedy, drama, or even quirky. It all just felt boring and nothing was holding my interest for the longest time.
When I say it’s uneven, I don’t mean that there are parts where it goes for the comedic chops and then just goes right onto totally dramatic territory, because they are actually pretty subtle with the dramatic stuff here, it just didn’t fit all that much. These characters are pretty dickish (what is to expected from Anderson) but the film tries so hard to have us care for these characters by the end that it’s too pushy. There will be a moment here or there, where it’s obvious that Anderson wants us to feel the pain and anguish that these characters feel, but instead we are left feeling nothing and even unmoved. It’s hard to connect to anyone and it wouldn’t have bothered me if they weren’t so busy bickering at each other for the first hour or so acting like one of them just stole their PS2 game.
However, there are plenty of moments to this flick that worked, which I think is Anderson’s fault. Anderson always has a knack for making beautiful-looking films go along with his darkly depressing subject material, and here is no different. His colors just pop-out at you with every shot, the camera itself glides back and forth and crash zooms like crazy as if it was a film from the 70’s, and the soundtrack itself provides plenty of tracks that go along with the setting as well as mood but also stay in your head long after the flick is over. Once again with Anderson, his films are barely hard to stop looking at because no matter what the subject matter is, the flick is always going to have something beautiful to see and gaze at.
As much as I may talk a bunch of ish on the script itself, I still can say that there are plenty of delightful moments to it as well that sort of make it the trip worth watching. The several moments of dry humor work because there are plenty of gags that come around subtlety in the film and it’s almost like the flick itself is testing you to see if you really are paying attention after all. Even the drama by the end starts to hit its mark mainly because Anderson is very good at showing sequences that not only move us but make us chuckle as well. There’s one impressive scene at the end played to the tune of “Play With Fire” by The Rolling Stones and without giving too much away, I just want to say it’s one of those signature Anderson scenes that make you forget about the rest of the film and have you only remember that.
The cast isn’t anything new here for Anderson, but they all do pretty well with his quirky material even though nobody is really gunning for anything new or improved when it comes to their acting. Adrien Brody is pretty good as Peter and is always able to convey any emotion that he has through his eyes, which helps his character out a lot here; Jason Schwartzman is pretty funny with his dry sense of humor that always seems to work but he’s much more mature with this role than we usually have seen him in here as Jack; and Owen Wilson is pretty much playing the same role he always does but with a more pretentious act here as Francis, but he still has great comedic timing and probably got the most laughs out of me the whole time. There’s also an extended cameo scene from Anjelica Huston as these dudes’ mommy, and she always gives that amazing performance that usually always clocks in underneath 10 minutes. As I’ve said before, everybody here is great but their not really trying anything new here to make us totally surprised.
Consensus: The Darjeeling Limited is well-acted and has its moments of pure drama and comedy, but everything feels too familiar with barely anything new or original to see here and the script is definitely one of Wes Anderson’s more uneven ones as of late.