It seems that as Christmas steadily approaches, it brings with it not just an increase in tat on the shelves, a decrease in bank balances, runny noses, stresses and other such fun, but also a steady trickle of good films. Imagine! Good films! The autumn season is always a bit dry, with the dregs of summer blockbusters left and the Oscar contenders holding back to emerge at a time that’ll better their chances. But as winter kicks in a few goodies start coming back out of the woodwork, clawing their way at the Cinemafool Top 10 (which is shaping up nicely, by the way, but some battles still to be had in the last month of the year). Last year Pan’s Labyrinth and Stranger Than Fiction impressed as 2006 closed down, and this time around we’ve already had Eastern Promises wedging a lovely Viggo into our midst. And now The Darjeeling Limited.
Yup, Darjeeling is one of those films that had me smiling throughout the bulk of it, which is pretty impressive as my natural facial expression is that of contempt, or occasional horror (see Pirates…) It’s a Wes Anderson film, whose previous flicks include Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and 2005’s The Life Aquatic. Wes’s films tend to meander plot-wise, feature Bill Murray, have ace soundtracks, and often leave you wondering if you enjoyed it or not.
Wes likes to feature actors with slightly weird faces, and have lots of close up shots of them, then shots of them walking in slow-motion to a cool song, preferably with all characters in formation, one behind the other. It looks good, you see. He also likes to have plots that you can’t really summarise. Take Darjeeling. Essentially it’s about three brothers on a train in India. If I tried to explain it anymore I’d spoil its occasional twists and turns, and would run out of space for this review (which, granted, has already been taken up by lots of unrelated waffle anyway, although good waffle none-the-less. There was some more.) Wes also has a weird knack of making a 90 minute film feel like it’s been on for a ga-jillion hours.
All of the above makes it sound like I dislike his films. I don’t, but I am wary when approaching them. Darjeeling features all of Wes’s usual traits, but the reason for my almost constant smile is down to three little words. Owen, Jason and Adrien. That’d be Wilson, Schwartzman and Brody. As the three leads these guys are just pure brilliance, and putting them together as squabbling, peculiar brothers was a genius move. Owen’s character is overly organised, bossy and a bit anal, although impressed me with his travel planning. As any of my travelling companions know, I like to plan things out, preferably with spreadsheets. Owen has laminated itineraries. Laminated! A great idea, and one which I might implement in my forth-coming January trip.
Jason Schwartzman plays a sombre writer with impulsive behaviour and lady problems, while Adrian Brody is the tall, slightly broody and emotional sibling. All three have amazing noses (see previous comment on Wes liking weird faces) and gel together so well on screen you can easily see them as brothers. The film wavers in tone between comedic and melancholic, with a few unexpected flashes of excitement, and some giggly moments of fun that makes the whole thing a pleasure to observe.
My only gripe, aside from a reasonably pointless short film used as an opener (watch out for Natalie Portman’s ribs - seriously disturbing) is the ga-jillion hour factor, with the film seemingly coming to an end but then motoring on for another few hours (or maybe twenty minutes or so). It was just enough to make my smile fade, and enough to drop Darjeeling down a point - but to say that it still stands at CF3 should suggest how much I was enjoying this film. The Darjeeling Limited is oddball, quirky, and any other clichéd adjective you want to throw in there to describe a film that’s different to the norm. But it’s certainly worth watching. So watch it.