Wes Anderson doesn’t stray too far afield with The Darjeeling Limited, but judging by his latest film’s considerable merits, do we really want him to? Even a ten-year-old could point out the aesthetic and narrative similarities between Anderson’s films, so consistently do they deploy the same visual tricks and emotional turnarounds, yet to observe The Darjeeling Limited from a simple evaluative distance would deny the immersive pleasures therein. Asking Anderson to change (or “grow,” as some critics would call it) ignores everything that’s right with the artistic fluidity from Bottle Rocket to here. If The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou seemed too mechanical, too locked-in to its director’s gambits, then with Darjeeling Anderson has found a way to overcome his own limitations without forgoing his expected style.
Here, we still have vaguely unhappy, comically morose family members trying to reconnect while boxed into Anderson’s comic panel-like set-ups. Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman return, as brothers Francis and Jack, embarking on a soul-searching train voyage through India, and if their performances initially feel entirely too comfortable, as entrenched as these actors are in Anderson’s constrictive sensibilities, then the addition of Anderson first-timer Adrien Brody, as the third (and… tallest) brother, Jack, has freed them. Whereas Wilson’s faux earnest deadpan and Schwartzman’s bruised puppy-dog gestures (as an actor, he’s best when looking directly into the camera, imploring at an off-screen female object of desire) have received workouts before, Brody’s elongated, sad-eyed interiority injects genuine vitality into the film.
Click here to read Michael Koresky’s review of The Darjeeling Limited.