The Darjeeling Limited

So tonight I went to a shmancy screening for The Darjeeling Limited and it had a Q&A afterwards with Wes Anderton, Jason Schwartzbaum, and a Coppola spawn (all co-writers of this flick). All three seemed like nice enough dudes and it sounded like they had a great exciting time writing this movie together-- so it makes me feel a little weird writing what I'm about to write...  like a guest badmouthing the special thing I was invited to.

But I had some fairly serious issues with this flick.

There's always something to like about all Anderton's flicks. Sometimes it's a character who is nice to latch onto. Usually Owen Wilson (co-writer of Bottlerocket, Rushmore, Tennenbaums) for me. Or some visual juicy snippet. Funky demented moment. Or a zippy bizarre babble of dialogue. But I think Bottle Rocket is overrated. Rushmore too (although I liked it alot). Life Aquatic was way disappointing (and now has stumbled it's way into the realm of unwatchability). Tennenbaum's is probably my favorite of the batch. So with this flick my hopes were pretty low. The title itself was enough for me to mentally pre-snub its snobberishness. The Darjeeling Limited? Uch/Groan/Yawn. Sounds like the title of a 700 page book that I don't want to read.

I think the problem with Anderton now is he seems to be inbreeding in this Wilson/Coppola/Schwartzbaum/Murray world of ubercoolness. The lot of them now seemed more focused on their personal image and eurotinged-mythology than their work. By making sure his cliquee circle keeps revolving, Anderton has officially staked his claim as the Guy Ritchie of family issues and bright colors. This movie plays like a rich kid's project from an invitation-only otherworld. A kind of loft-space party that would make me instantly uncomfortable, self-conscious about my lack of quirks, ashamed of my modest travel experiences, and hyperaware of my inability to define "haute couture". And the snickers within earshot would eventually project onto me a new sense of doubt about my own interpretation of a good time. Thanks for the invite-- but I'll stay home, order a pizza, and watch TV in my underwear.

As for this movie, I guess it's on a par with Aquatic. Some real gorgeousness. A bunch of cool scenes. Some good Owen moments. Little quirk here. Little quirk there. But when push comes (like Aquatic) this movie is unlovable. The characters are adamantly depthless. Both Schwartzbaum and What's his Face Oscar Winner (with the long face) are nowhere. The plotline wanders around drugged and lazy looking for purpose on purpose. It relies way heavy on 'cool' music to make scenes pop. And about half-way through the movie there's a jarringly pointless flashback to nowhere-- which derails the whole shebang.

All that being said, there's still a side of me somewhere that still liked this movie. There are a decent amount of laugh-out loud liners, nasal exhale moments, and awesome looking shots-- but that stuff should have been the bonus... not the just a teasey motivator for slogging along on this 'journey'.

Three Good Things About this Movie

- I admit I do think 65% of everything Owen Wilson says is funny-- even when there's no joke.
- It made me want to travel to India and soak in that whole mix.
- There's a hot Indian chick in this flick who's super hot.

Three Bad Things About this Movie

- I kept waiting for it to get good all the way till the end.
- There was probably the most boring personal assistant character in any movie ever. Considering the landscape-- it was a shocking ball drop.
- It didn't understand the goal or the point.

All in all, this movie is worth watching as a DVD if you can watch it all over the course of the day. The whole thing plays like a series of short films spliced together with some hazy common theme.  There is something I really do like about this guy's filmmaking and I believe in it-- but he's gotta cut the crap. It's time. No more lounging around in some hotel in Paris doodling in a notebook while drinking $300 bottles of wine. No more using music as a crutch. And no more floating in the pool of self-smug satisfication. Seems like perfect timing to call up Owen Wilson and find out what's really going on in his head---  and maybe write something genuine about happiness, wealth, and depression?


Here's a picture of them answering questions afterwards:

Insights learned from the Q&A:

-- Wes Anderton, Coppola, and Schwartbaum wrote the thing together and the three of them would act out parts when hanging out. I forget who played who.

-- Schwartzbaum said he was nervous when they started filming because he had no idea who the character was he was playing. (with good reason).

-- All the train scenes were shot on an actual train. Sometimes while the train was actually moving.

-- Donald Sutherland was cast as the 'father'. Although there were no scenes with him in it and he was never actually contacted about the role.

-- A short (which they showed before the movie) featuring Natalie Portman's butt was cut from the film. Wes said ideally he'd like the movie in theaters to play that short first. Then have a 15-minute intermission. Then play the rest of the movie.

-- You can see it here for free from iTunes.