Is Wes Anderson a two-hit wonder? After Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson has followed those classics up with two similarly quirky films that both lack the same intelligence and wit. If The Life Aquatic was a disappointment, The Darjeeling Limited is an equally unimpressive movie.
The Darjeeling Limited stars Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman as three brothers who find themselves traveling across India on a quirky little train. While the brothers are often at odds with one another, they slowly develop a bond, especially once they're kicked off the train and forced to save three boys stranded in a raging creek.
The movie is style over substance, though as with any of Anderson's films, it's hard to separate the two. Anderson has a distinctive style that appears in all of his films, and for a while, the style was working in synergy with his stories. Now, however, it feels like Anderson is doing quirky films for the sake of doing quirky films, and that he relies on his offbeat visuals to enhance otherwise bland screenplays. The Darjeeling Limited has some interesting moments, but it wavers on the edge of being completely dull from beginning to end. The movie is 91 minutes long, but it feels like twice that.
The frustrating thing about The Darjeeling Limited is that it has just enough to keep you mildly entertained and to keep watching, but Anderson never does anything to truly please the audience. There's nothing particularly bad about the movie; it's just that there isn't anything that's very good, either. The actors do a good job, and from a purely technical perspective, everything is great: the direction is good, the screenplay adequate and the story has potential. Unfortunately, none of those elements flesh out to be anything particularly entertaining. There are some mildly funny parts, but most of the jokes miss their mark. You keep watching, watching and watching, waiting for the movie to make that leap to the next level, but it never happens.
There are some moments I liked about The Darjeeling Limited. Seeing Natalie Portman in a partial nude scene is a plus. The train car scene at the end of the film is also very good. Some of the banter between the three brothers in entertaining.
Unfortunately, the honeymoon period for Wes Anderson is over. His movies are starting to all look the same, and that's because the screenplays haven't kept up with his visual style. Anderson needs to go back to basics, come up with a great screenplay, and then identify how best to turn that screenplay into an entertaining film. I get the sense that for The Darjeeling Limited, he was sitting at home and thought, "I should make a movie about three guys on a train in India. It's going to be a weird train, and I'm going to do this and this and this. Now, what's a story that I can stick in to piece all of these scenes together?"
Die hard fans of Anderson may find something to like, but I really liked some of his older films and did not find much to appreciate here. The Darjeeling Limited isn't terrible, but it's slow and boring.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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