By Fred Topel | Image property of Fox Searchlight Pictures.
The Darjeeling Limited
Here's another Wes Anderson movie. I say that with all due respect, because he definitely has his own style. I'm not particularly ga ga over it, but I enjoyed Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Didn't I go over this in my review of The Wendell Baker Story? Anyway, I enjoyed The Darjeeling Limited as well, but it's hard for me to qualify it within or without the context of his previous work.
The Darjeeling Limited Review
To say it's the story of three brothers on a train ride in India is not only oversimplifying, it's not even what it's really about. Just like boarding school was only the vehicle of Rushmore and a family of geniuses was only the vehicle of Tenenbaums, the train ride is just a vehicle here. No pun intended, because that's not Anderson's style.
The three brothers have distinct personalities that clash together. They each have unique issues that get explored on the trek. They share common parental issues. They are sometimes friendly and sometimes at odds. That's what the movie is about.
Describing the humor of this is difficult. It could be that one-liners tell entire stories, each character expressing everything with limited speech. It could just be that their discourse on things like ordering dinner and planning the trip are so clearly veiled accusations of a deeper level that we all get it. Whatever, it's very Wes Anderson. The rhythm of the dialogue and actions flows in that special way.
It's just weird enough without becoming surreal. Many encounters are just slightly off plot, but still related to the plot. There are some odd filmic devices, but mainly it's the encounters within the plot. But they all make sense so it never jumps out of reality.
It is a pleasure to look at as well. Most shots frame a single character in the center of the widescreen frame with nothing but background on either side of them. Occasionally, there are three shots with each character doing something different, but the main aesthetic is like the anti-Cinemascope.
The experience culminates in some growth without any big message scenes. You get it, the characters come to a certain place, but they don't have to make a big deal about it. Nobody says, "I learned something today…" They've just existed and their existence is a pretty fun ride for us.