Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited

At the outset, let me say that I'm not familiar with director Wes Anderson's work, so my thoughts on this film aren't colored with opinions on his earlier films.
Here, the three brothers Whitman- played by Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, and one Jason Schwartzmann- embark on a train ride through India, as a 'spiritual journey,' a concept I've never fully understood. Also, they are seeking to bond together again as brothers, and then, the oldest one reveals, to search for their mother who didn't turn up for their father's funeral. This train, the Darjeeling Limited, never does get to Darjeeling by the way; it meanders around in Rajasthan for the most part .
So. For no particular reason, the youngest brother goes barefoot. Can you imagine a foreign tourist spending his entire time in India barefoot? Neither can I. For no particular reason, there is copious downing of cough syrup and "Indian muscle relaxants."
Inexplicably, one of them buys a poisonous snake and carries it around in a metal box. (Apparently, those Indian muscle-relaxants really relaxed his brain, daft fellow.)What were they planning to feed the creature? Savory snacks and sweet lime?
And then, the train attendants. The Sikh attendant has an American accent. He is also the resident herpetologist, as shown by his expert capture of the poor serpent when it escapes from its metal prison. The girl attendant, whose accent verges dangerously towards crisp Brit, in one scene carries in a snack tray in a salwar-kameez --minus the salwar.
Notice that so far I haven't mentioned anything more about the story. This is because it all unravels rather quickly after the three boys are thrown off the train. Oh, also, at one point the train is 'lost'- because it took a wrong turn somewhere. This, in a nation that has one of the oldest and most complex railway systems in the world.
It is simply impossible to get past these gratingly irritating inconsistencies. The movie meanders along its unrealistic way, chronicling the never-ending adventures that the dysfunctional bunch have. (Irfan Khan is in there somewhere in a near-wordless cameo as a bereaved father.) In the end, they track down the mother who is a nun in some sort of convent in the 'Himalayan foothills', but the locales still look suspiciously like Rajasthan.
To speak of performances, none stand out. Visually the fim is pleasing. The music is good, some borrowed from Satyajit Ray films. But that is it. I failed to see the humor or the symbolism. (If the act of leaving behind your 11-piece handpainted Vuitton luggage when you are running to catch a train signifies letting go of emotional baggage, then I stand corrected.)
Spiritual journeys taken in India are beyond my understanding. Films telling stories about these journeys, I am henceforth going to avoid.

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