to an unknown audience
The Wes Anderson Experience/  /December 15, 2007

The Darjeeling Limited wants to be a portrait of the shallow "spiritual journey" that a group of Americans might take after a tragedy. There's plenty to discover in that setting; but this film doesn't dig for it. The main characters, three brothers, are weakly defined: they have "characteristics" but no character, nothing in particular seems to drive them. There are only vague implications about the history of the family. The brothers all have a flat affect: they take the antagonisms as if they've grown accustomed to them, and have learned not to respond—they're calloused against each other. When they do respond, they burst out with action that soon sorts itself out, usually by the intervention of some eye-rolling outsider. It seems assumed at the outset that the brothers will restore their initial relationships, and keep their original quirks: this is a movie about going on a journey for change and then deciding you like yourself, and your family, even with the flaws. The problem with this is that they don't even try, there's no push for change. The only effort made is buying tickets to India; on the train they could just as well be in their childhood bedroom. This theme, the failure to step outside yourself in a foreign place, was well-nailed by Sofia Coppola in Lost in Translation. But by the midpoint of The Darjeeling Limited we realize they're not going anywhere on this train, and it keeps dragging us through more "significant" experiences and silly rituals. Even as the movie is light-hearted, it's not much fun; these ugly Americans could be living it up; but their high idea of fun seems to be shagging an Indian girl in a train loo (oo-er, Indian!).

The best, most human reaction in the entire film is Bill Murray's, who only has about thirty seconds of screen time, but does loads with it. The brothers use two hours to make cardboard cutouts.

If The Darjeeling Limited works at all, it's as cool media: if you have siblings, if you have family dynamics to work out, if you're an American hipster try to deal with a tragedy, you might be able to project yourself into this film. It has nothing to show you, but you might find a space to dwell in for a while.

Keep Reading >

Post a comment