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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Film: The Darjeeling Limited

Hotel Chevalier, the short film before the main event, was first shown at the Venice Film Festival and has since been gracing the small screens of digital music players far and wide. It’s a pretentious and unnecessary pre-cursor that introduces the character of Jack Whitman (Jason Schwartzman) as he woos his ex-girlfriend (Natalie Portman) into bed. One can’t help but suspect that Schwartzman’s co-writing credits included this whole scene for his own good.

Thirteen minutes of posturing and pouting and thankfully the main show begins. It’s an intriguing tale of three Whitman brothers, who’ve drifted apart since the death of their father, and their journey of spiritual enlightenment to find their errant mother (Angelica Huston) through the colourful backdrop of India. Each brother has his own set of neuroses that he brings to the melting pot. Jack is quiet and often thoughtless, Peter (Adrien Brody) has many insecurities and Francis (Owen Wilson) is overwhelmingly controlling.

Cut to the bare bones, it’s basically Wes Anderson doing a buddy road movie. He’s as clever as ever in his attention to detail and the framing of his shots is excellent - often a character will be missing from the crop only for his head to fill the small remaining gap as he leans in to deliver a line. The beautiful landscapes of India have been captured in a multitude of vibrant blues, oranges and reds. The slow pace of the film suits its surroundings but it does tend to blunt the impact of certain scenes.

It’s a film that both delights visually and infuriates emotionally in equal measure. The inert and meandering script can leave one feeling rather detached from events. With actors like Bill Murray and Owen Wilson on display there is a smattering of humour, even if it is rather black humour, which lifts the oppression albeit briefly. Ultimately, The Darjeeling Limited is certainly not going to be, ahem, every one’s cup of tea.

For fans of: The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic, Rushmore

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