Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Darjeeling Limited Expectations

A few inches of snow had fallen earlier in the day, and it appeared a few more inches might fall. The streets were all crappy. For some reason, extraordinarily bad weather makes me want to get out of the house. And get out of the house I did!

What were my choices tonight at the LaGrange?

American Gangster - Hmm, Ridley Scott directing a crime movie, starring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe... Sounds tempting, but it starts at 9:30pm and has a long running time.

Across The Universe - I am still smarting from seeing Sgt. Pepper's when I was eight years old.

August Rush - What the hell is this? I have never heard of it. Is it a beverage? A low-budget illegal drug? Is this even a movie?

The Darjeeling Limited - Okay, I'll try it out.

Like most sentient beings, I loved Rushmore. Later on I saw Wes Anderson's first movie, Bottle Rocket, and liked it quite a bit too. Rushmore and Bottle Rocket seemed pulled from personal experience. There was lots of hip pop music floating around, slow motion and self-conscious camera moves, but you felt some genuine emotion underpinning it all. And all these stylistic devices in many cases heightened the emotion of the films.

But then his subsequent films, I didn't like so much. I felt a lot of the emotion drain away in Royal Tenenbaums and the Life Aquatic. There were glimmers of it, but mostly it was all subservient to preciousness, at some conscious attempt at having quirky characters that related to each other obliquely. The stylistic devices were still there, but without any feelings for the characters, they rang kind of hollow.

I had read some rather unfavorable reviews of Anderson's most recent film, The Darjeeling Limited, and so went into Theater 4 (the Bob Seger Theater) not looking for much.

Sadly, not much is what I got. The flaws in Anderson's work were only more in evidence. The use of music, slow motion and cute camera moves and framing only foregrounded the absence of passion and conviction. If I want to see a bloodless movie, I'll see the latest Woody Allen stinker, thank you very much.

The death of a small child occurs in the middle of the film, but the characters are insulated from it by slow motion and mannered performances. By the end of the movie, it seems they have already forgotten this supposedly life-changing event.

In these reviews, I try and be snarky, so I can live up to my "Schmuck" moniker. But it's honestly difficult to be snarky with regards to movies like this. I enjoyed this movie probably the least of the movies I have seen thus far at the LaGrange (alright, alright, Fracture was still the worst). Maybe the other movies weren't as competently made as Darjeeling, but at least you felt that there was something other than preciousness motivating the filmmakers.

In the end, this movie was like a finely-crafted state-of-the-art station wagon. Sure, maybe it's put together well, but do you really want to drive it? *

* No, you don't.


Timothy Donavan Russell said...

You made Big Red cry.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

I did like Life Aquatic but I am a total mark for Bill Murray. I also saw Royal Tennenbaums but I wasn't a big fan of it so much.

Anderson's movies are interesting and there is a lot of funny little moments and amusing character detail and stuff, but it seems that he builds and builds and builds and the payoff at the end really doesn't make the trip really worth it.

Splotchy said...

tim, I am obviously excepting your station wagon :). And any automobile comments from yours truly, who drives a shitty, sloppy-ass minivan with half-assed patched dings on the side, should be taken with an extremely large lick of salt.

jon, I'd say I liked Life Aquatic more than Royal, too. Murray was very appealing, as were Willem Dafoe, Anjelica Huston, and Jeff Goldblum. I felt the payoff at the end of Darjeeling wasn't really a payoff at all.

dguzman said...

I loved Bottle Rocket, but after that everything seemed forced and weird. I wanted to see Life Aquatic (as I love Bill Murray) but I just didn't get the energy.

BTW--your reviews are always so well written. Nice work, sir!

BeckEye said...

Re: August friends and I went to see Hairspray and there was a trailer for that movie during the coming attractions. There is this part where Keri Russell says to Mr. Pouty Face (Jonathan Rhys-Myers) "What are you looking at?" and he BREATHILY answers, "YOOOU." The four of us all busted out laughing simultaneously. It didn't seem like anyone else in the theater found it all that amusing, but we all recognized cheese when we smelled it.

That, and Robin Williams' arm hair, have kept me away from seeing that movie. I probably won't even bother to Netflix it.

SamuraiFrog said...

You hit on exactly why Anderson's work alienates me. I thought Bottle Rocket was okay (it was probably as good as any movie with both Wilson brothers in it could possibly be, Christ, I hate them). Oddly enough, I liked The Life Aquatic best, probably BECAUSE it was so oblique and detached. Mostly it's because I don't think Anderson writes convincing human beings, so the technique and soundtrack are the only things going for it.

I know a number of people who like Darjeeling, but they're all people who see preciousness and quirk and think they're missing something they're supposed to like.

Johnny Yen said...

Me and my friend Luz were apparently the only two people on the planet that didn't like Rushmore. The main character was incredibly unsympathetic. I did like the soundtrack. I loved The Royal Tennenbaums. I need to put Bottle Rocket on my Netflix queue.

lulu said...

The first five minutes of this movie, when Murray is in the cab trying to make the train, is EXACTLY what India is like, otherwise the movie was pretty dumb.

Distributorcap said...

again, i am glad you saw this so i dont have to

Diamond Dave Diggler said...

This is a situation where there is linear and palpable deterioration of a film maker's work through time. What causes this phenomenon that seems so common? Probably people in "the biz" blowing smoke up his ass that his movies are just sooooo wonderful. Congratulations on your recent celebrity status with WICH, btw, although you were always that unreachable star in the firmament to me. Good Day Sir.

Dale said...

I loved Rushmore, missed Bottle Rocket but liked 'Tenebaums'. I found myself unable to sit through 'Aquatic' and so on your review will sit this one out too. Thanks Splotchy!