F.I.L.M. of the Week (December 25, 2009)

25 12 2009

As you are hopefully enjoying Christmas day with your family, watch the “F.I.L.M.” of the week, Wes Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Limited,” and be thankful that you are not like this family.  Distant and dysfunctional, the movie follows three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman) on a spiritual journey across India.  However, the trip becomes about more than religion; it brings to the surface many feelings of dissent simmering between the brothers. But this isn’t an unnerving family drama.  It is a Wes Anderson movie, and he manages to delve into our deepest feelings using humor and panache.  “The Darjeeling Limited” is easily his most uproarious and poignant.

Anderson’s characters are always a little quirky and off-beat, but here they are much less bizarre than his other movies (such as “The Royal Tenenbaums”) and hence more relatable.  Each brother is stricken by some sort of painful feeling.  The eldest, Francis (Wilson), has been in a terrible motorcycle accident, forcing him to don an arsenal of bandages.  The middle, Peter (Brody) is still struggling to get over his grief from the death of his father.  The youngest, Jack (Schwartzman), is reeling from a break-up with his girlfriend, obsessively listening to messages left by her.  After a year separated from each other, they unite at Francis’ request on a train called the Darjeeling Limited that runs through India.  He hopes that some sort of grand spiritual experience will unite them again, but factionalism begins to develop among the brothers.  Francis and Jack are angry that Peter can’t seem to let go of his father; Francis and Peter are reviled by Jack’s pathetic handling of his break-up; Peter and Jack are constantly questioning the true motives of Francis and the trip.  Ultimately, it is really the lingering agony at their father’s death and their disgust with the absence and neglect of their mother (Anjelica Huston) that brings them back together.

“The Darjeeling Limited” stands out from Anderson’s other movies not only because it is notably funnier, but also because it is a story told with a great deal of compassion and introspection.  In less than 90 minutes, Anderson unravels the three main characters completely, getting to the core of what brings families together and tear them apart.  The movie’s success is not a solely a triumph of Anderson’s direction and writing (technically speaking, the script was a collaboration with Schwartzman and Roman Coppola).  Its success is due largely in part to the three leading men, constantly adjusting their emotions to fit the overall tone of the movie.  These incredibly aware performances are at times comical, at others somber, and often both.  Wilson, Brody, and Schwartzman are completely believable as brothers, and they are the perfect people to lead us on Anderson’s journey.

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