Movie News & Reviews

A bit of disconnect easy to overlook in "The Darjeeling Limited"

A year ago, I'd never have imagined getting worked into a lather overa movie having a later release date in the Tri-Cities than elsewherein the country.

For one thing, I was living in Idaho, so the ins and outs oftheatrical releases in the Columbia Basin weren't my No. 1 worry. I wassomewhat more concerned with learning how not to die of cold thatDecember when it didn't get above freezing for three straight weeksand all the locks on my car stopped working than the cosmic unfairnessof having to wait a month more than those jerks in NY/LA to see thenew Wes Anderson movie. I was more wrapped up in my ongoing confusionover the fact it was called "the Gem State" when the only things shinyand gleaming from Coeur d'Alene to Boise were the lumps of chewingtobacco in the gutters than I was worried about having to consciouslyavoid reading my favorite reviewers until a movie finally hits ournot-so-small town.

Yet, now it drives me nuts. I checked the Friday listings for "TheDarjeeling Limited" for four straight weeks and my blood boiled everytime it wasn't there. The thought the Coen Brothers' upcoming "NoCountry for Old Men" might not actually open here Nov. 9 iskilling me with an insomnia that has me pacing the house till 4 a.m. andstaring at my roommate while he sleeps.

I do that anyway, because I'm certain he's going to talk in his dreamsone night about where he buried the life insurance money for ourhamster that recently died under suspicious circumstances, but I'mbeginning to think it's not entirely healthy. Thank goodness "TheDarjeeling Limited" showed up this weekend, quelling my anxiety andthrusting me back into my normal late-night schedule of watching"Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2" and being so shocked by its criminalbadness I then watched its director commentary, followed by a briskbout of attempted suicide.

In Wes Anderson's latest, Owen Wilson and his brothers JasonSchwartzman and Adrien Brody haven't spoken in the year since thefuneral of their father. Wilson, still bearing the bruises andbandages from a car wreck in which he technically died, flies the twoout for a train ride across India, a spiritual journey intended tostraighten out their drifting lives.

The trip rarely follows Wilson's carefully orchestrated itinerary, ineither the train's unpredictable stops or his attempts to put thingsback together with his depressed and self-medicating brothers. Kickedoff the train for brawling, smuggling deadly cobras aboard, andinappropriate relations with a porter, the three are left to findthemselves in a country they know nothing about.

The problem with being a director as unique and immediatelyrecognizable as Anderson is that it becomes paradoxically easier todismiss him. Once you've seen one touching, funny, perfectly framedmovie about sorrowful people searching for past glories andrelationships set to a soundtrack so great it would make Tarantinohimself weep tears of bitter jealousy, it feels like you've seen themall.

"The Darjeeling Limited" is all those things and finds a lot offraternal warmth and lively absurdity between its three leads, butwith the exception of Schwartzman, whose situation is explored in ashort film before the main feature, it's hard to connect with whatexactly has got them all so down. It's got a scattering of movingscenes -- including an Indian funeral that's caught flak for being toodetached or too exploitive; I found it understated and quietlyeffective -- but lacking a firm handle on its characters' problems, itlacks some of the emotion it's shooting for, too.

Still, for a movie that (like all road trips) occasionally feelsadrift, it manages a sense of discovery in a land its characters don'tknow nearly so well as they think they do. Unexceptional byAnderson's own high standards, "The Darjeeling Limited" is funny enoughand uplifting enough to overcome the nagging sense it could have beena good deal better.

Grade: B