The Darjeeling Limited was a pleasent surprise despite taking me about 40 minutes to really “get into” the story and the characters. It’s very detached probably the characters are unhappy and totally self-involved. They fail to interract with each other on such a basic level, that it is no surprise the audience only finds themselves attaching to the narrative or the characters when they themselves are able to move outside them selves and finally come to terms with the world. Before they are able to return to “the real world”, they are detached from every aspect of their lives, even trying to escape from love, life and responsibility as they are too difficult for them to handle. We get small glimpses into their reasoning, but most of the film takes place in the moment, even if the character’s minds are far away. They cannot distance themselves long enough from their problems (despite them being halfway across the world) for a moment long enough to be able to truly have a spiritual revelation. It’s only when they are forced through action not to think of themselves that they are able to finally gain greater understanding of their relationship with the world and with each other.
Once this rather tragic event happens that brings the brothers back into reality, the film improves greatly. The characters become more than caricatures, and their experiences are deep and heartfelt. We slowly begin to understand what brought them to India, and what they were running away from. Everything about the second half of the film works for me, even if the first half seems lackluster, almost like Wes Anderson in auto-pilot. It’s a lot darker than what I expect from him, and honestly a lot less “precious” and “quirky”. I understand the critisism and desire many of his fans have for him to move away from his style, but I truly think he is evolving within his framework, increasingly exploring aspects of the human condition that interest him, and in wholly different ways. This may not be his best film, but it’s certainly worth a look with an open mind. The film despite what I see as very dark ideas and characters also has some genuinly hilarious moments, most of them approaching the climax of the film. I think in future years this film will gain more respect and appreciation than it has now, and I even see myself enjoying it more on future viewings.
I also had the pleasure of seeing Hotel Chevalier this weekend, which is available to Americans for free on Itunes. It’s definetely very minor in Anderson’s oeuvre but I think nonetheless worth seeing. It’s a small window into a relationship, and it relies heavily on performance rather than camera work or script. Portman is perfectly divine, and she proves why she is one of the best new talents in Hollywood. Even in this small film, we feel we know her character, as we feel and worry for her. The final shot is beautiful, and surprisingly heartwarming. I don’t think this is a great short, but it certainly is memorable and a good prelude to Darjeeling.