Wes Anderson's latest film, "The Darjeeling Limited" opens in limited release today. It's about a spiritual train journey across India, taken by three brothers - played by Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody (see here in an autorickshaw) - who've not spoken in the year since their father's death. As with the entire body of Anderson's work - "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," "Bottle Rocket" - the reviews are mixed here, and often suspicious. Our review roundup is below, followed by links to the official website, the trailer and the short web-only film that Anderson wants you to see before you see the movie.
Post your comments - about the reviews or about the movie - below.
A.O. Scott writes the majority opinion in the NYT:
“The Darjeeling Limited” amounts finally to a high-end, high-toned tourist adventure. I don’t mean this dismissively; it would be hypocritical of me to deny the delights of luxury travel to faraway lands. And Mr. Anderson’s eye for local color — the red-orange-yellow end of the spectrum in particular — is meticulous and admiring.
But humanism lies either beyond his grasp or outside the range of his interests. His stated debt to “The River,” Jean Renoir’s film about Indian village life, and his use of music from the films of Satyajit Ray represent both an earnest tribute to those filmmakers and an admission of his own limitations. They were great directors because they extended the capacity of the art form to comprehend the world that exists. He is an intriguing and amusing director because he tirelessly elaborates on a world of his own making.
"This is familiar psychological as well as stylistic territory for Anderson after Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. But there's a startling new maturity in Darjeeling, a compassion for the larger world that busts the confines of the filmmaker's miniaturist instincts. (A jolting, unironic plot turn may even shock.) I don't know which came first — inspiration provided by the beauty and complexity of India, or an attraction to India because of a wiser heart.
On Salon, Stephanie Zacharek writes that The Darjeeling Limited "is the first of Anderson's movies that has elicited even the mildest scrap of affection from me: I feel warmly toward it, although I reserve the right to remain wary of its aging-hipster gimcrackery."
In USA Today, Claudia Puig says "the cinematography is stunning, the soundtrack is engaging and some moments are tenderly observed. Still, the story lacks some substance and character development.
Slate's Dana Stevens writes one of the nimblest, most biting reviews of the film, but she's become a skeptic. She calls his films "miniaturist studies of haute-bourgeois anomie that, however deftly sketched, ultimately shut down on themselves."
Stevens takes note of "a wonderful, nearly wordless performance from Indian actor Irrfan Khan" as the father in a village where a where has died. But she thinks this part of the film, with its juxtaposition of traveling Westerners against native misery, also brings out "Anderson at his worst: self-serious, aestheticizing, and morally yucky."
Peter Rainer of The Christian Science Monitor enjoys the camerawork and the "comically spare" dialogue.
And yet, "The Darjeeling Limited" is a spiritual journey undertaken by three men who are essentially, though unintentionally, cartoons. The ravishing Indian landscapes, as well as the score, which at times utilizes music once composed by the great Satyajit Ray for his movies, prime us for an emotional experience that never happens. The journey, which includes a wonderful cameo in the foothills of the Himalayas with Anjelica Huston as the boy's mother, is a series of dead ends that are meant to be destinations. But too often they just seem like dead ends.
For some reason Rainer gives the film a B, which seems a lot better than his concluding thoughts suggest about the director:
Anderson can't quite rise above his own quirkiness. It's not that he can't respond to the beauty he places before us – he can – but his jokiness keeps undercutting his own best efforts. "The Darjeeling Limited" is a transitional film for him: He's outgrown a comic style that can no longer accommodate his deeper feelings.
At Ultrabrown, Manish Vij says the movie is "a funny, beautifully-shot amuse bouche which you’ll forget within days. It’s got little semblance of plot or character development, but style and charm to spare."
In The Village Voice, Nathan Lee is also swayed, if only slightly:
Has Anderson sensed the need to move on? Filming in a strange milieu impossible to micro-manage forces a somewhat looser grip on the material, and results in a story that pitches from the dramatically precise (Jack's fleeting romance with an employee of the Darjeeling) to the skittishly farcical. "We're just trying to experience something," muses Francis, summarizing both the sincerity and confusion of Darjeeling itself.
Now, to some background materials:
- The official website: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/thedarjeelinglimited/
- See "Hotel Chevalier" on iTunes, Anderson's 12-minute short film, that's a prequel to "Darjeeling."
Post your comments - about the movie or the reviews - below.