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Thursday, August 13, 2020

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Explore much more than a country with ‘Darjeeling Limited’


Before going to see The Darjeeling Limited, there’s something you need to do right this second: go online (or to the iTunes store) and download the free short film "Hotel Chevalier" and watch it. It’s a 13-minute prequel to Darjeeling starring Jason Schwartzman and a very naked Natalie Portman.

The short takes place entirely within a French luxury hotel room and is extremely vague on the details and backgrounds of its characters. With lines such as "I promise, I will never be your friend. No matter what. Ever," the dialogue is quick, insulting and distantly loving.

This prologue’s meaning is only clear after seeing Darjeeling, but it’s a necessary introduction to Schwartzman’s character, Jack. Hotel Chevalier is far from Wes Anderson’s best work – it really isn’t much to appreciate – but it ultimately, and positively, influences your interpretation of the main film.

The Darjeeling Limited begins with a hectic taxicab ride to a train station, zipping Bill Murray’s short cameo between the crowded and colorful streets of India set to frantic title music. The taxi arrives and Murray hits the ground running but misses his train as Peter (Adrian Brody) watches him sympathetically from the back of the train as it pulls away.

Peter is on the train to meet his two brothers Francis and Jack (Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman, respectively), after the three years spent intentionally not talking to each other. Francis organized the trip for them to reunite as brothers on a spiritual journey, the bulk of which they plan to spend traveling across the Indian countryside by train.

The hostility between the three is immediately clear, and the conflicts stem from their varying experiences with their parents, similar to Richie, Chas, and Margot in The Royal Tenenbaums. Francis has assumed a patriarchal role over the other two, and for a while it seems as if the only thing they have in common is an addiction to over-the-counter painkillers and tranquilizers.

Their tendency to keep secrets from one another, and then repeat the secrets to the third brother, does more to express their discontent than the sharp insults and physical altercations.

Nevertheless, Francis seems to be doing his best to keep the three together as he leads them into beautifully large Indian cities and native ceremonies. The brothers try to experience and understand the people and land while trying to do the same with each other.

The film is an incredible look at family conflict – as most of Anderson’s films are – but tends to rely too heavily on Anderson’s tone and visual style. While, yes, everything looks absolutely amazing and the photography is top-notch, the slow-motion horizontal pans set to The Kinks and overhead shots of suitcases and itineraries gets slightly redundant, especially to Anderson fans. The dialogue is also incredible and much more natural and comedic than that of Hotel Chevalier.

As with most Anderson films, the soundtrack is worth owning on its own. The Kinks and Rolling Stones are obligatorily included, along with several theme songs and original recordings from 1960s- and 1970s-era Indian films.

Despite the film’s slight predictability, it ranks high among his other films. It’s an interesting look at how we interpret and discuss our relationships with one another and react in a foreign environment. The story isn’t complete until the three share a second tragedy, a flashback to their father’s funeral and the reference to Hotel Chevalier, at which point the brothers figure out the heart of their compatibility, or lack thereof.


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