the darjeeling limited

May 28, 2008

This seems to be the week of dissatisfied postings! It’s good practice for me anyway. I both have to think harder about why I don’t like something, and it’s harder to write down why as well.

My most disappointing film of the year so far was Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited. He is the genius who made The Royal Tenenbaums and the absolutely genius, off-the-wall The Life Aquatic. I had been anticipating his latest film for ages and couldn’t wait to see it. Unfortunately, I was sorely disappointed.

The film follows three brothers on a spiritual journey to find themselves and each other again, aboard the too-fantastical-to-be-true Darjeeling Express Train in India. The film looks gorgeous (if a little Disneyesque) and the cast great but sadly that is about where it ends. I don’t think all the characters were meant as such caricatures of themselves (or perhaps they were), but I found it hard to take them seriously, much less care about their wallowing in self-pity and mid-life crises. Even their ‘encounters’ with the locals appeared stagy and ironic. I imagined everyone breaking into giggles as soon as each deep and meaningful scene was done with being filmed.

Perhaps I’m just too cynical – both to the idea of the film, and to the idea of India as being a place for emotional and spiritual reawakening. Or maybe you need to have experienced a reunion with a long-lost brother yourself to fully appreciate it, like Philip French did. Either way I just didn’t get it, and it certainly wasn’t my film of the year. There were some of the great comic sequences that Anderson is so good at, but they seemed to be random interludes in a self-indulgent story.

All in all, a case of parts adding up to substantially less than a whole. Unless there is someone out there who would care to enlighten me?


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