Hop on board the latest Wes Anderson express
Seattle Times staff reporter
Movie review"The Darjeeling Limited," with Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston. Directed by Wes Anderson, from a screenplay by Anderson, Schwartzman and Roman Coppola. 91 minutes. Rated R for language. Several theaters.
The Onion recently nailed the director of "The Darjeeling Limited" with typical laser-surgical precision in this headline: "New Wes Anderson Film Features Deadpan Delivery, Meticulous Art Direction, Characters With Father Issues."
True, the maker of "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Life Aquatic" isn't stretching much here. On the other hand, nobody makes films the way he does. And once you settle into the whimsical, meandering groove of this Healing Comedy — like something you'd find on a booze-soaked, juvenile men's version of Lifetime — you'll find it hilarious and a little magical.
The Characters With Father Issues are three brothers estranged since their pop got killed a year earlier. Controlling Francis (Owen Wilson) has roped heartbroken Jack ("Rushmore" star Jason Schwartzman) and expectant father Peter (Adrien Brody) into a spiritual journey through India on the titular train so that they can reconnect.
Francis has a ridiculously bandaged head from an attempted suicide-by-motorcycle — which unfortunately puts Wilson's recent reported suicide attempt in mind, but nothing further needs to be said of it. He keeps his brothers' passports, makes them agree to trip rules, orders their food for them, and has an assistant print and laminate their itinerary each day. Jack, sporting a ridiculous porno mustache, constantly checks his ex-girlfriend's answering machine messages but has a fling with the train's lovely stewardess (Amara Karan). And along with being ambivalent about his new child and the chances for his relationship, Peter constantly appropriates their dad's old possessions to establish a greater connection with him than the other two have.
They play off each other well as they bicker, brawl — Jack shouts "Stop including me!" as he maces the other two chasing him through cars — pray, drink and otherwise self-medicate through the color-drenched scenery of India. There's a fourth character with them: a load of preposterous, orange monogrammed luggage which belonged to their dad and is one of the movie's running jokes. As wonderfully deadpan as Anderson's humor may be, his imagery isn't exactly subtle as the boys eventually become forced literally to let go of all their father's baggage.
Anderson regulars show up in smaller roles, Bill Murray as a wordless businessman and Angelica Huston as the boys' mom, whose new home in an Indian convent is their ultimate (physical) goal. And if the mechanic at the Luftwaffe auto repair shop looks familiar, it's director Barbet Schroeder ("Reversal of Fortune").
Even if Anderson isn't reinventing himself, "Darjeeling" has more nonironic emotion than his previous ones, and a segment involving a river rescue and a boy's funeral add depth that keep it from being a one-note or clichéd experience. "Experience" is the operative word. Detractors might find Anderson's work slightly precious and maybe even self-indulgent (the 13-minute "Hotel Chevalier" prologue available online being an example). But his oddball odyssey stuck with me well after the final long, hypnotic shot of the magic train rolling through the Indian landscape.
Mark Rahner: 206-464-8259 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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