I saw the Wes Anderson movie "The Darjeeling Limited" -- about three brothers taking a spiritual train trip through India -- last night at a special screening a tthe Hammer Museum. There were some very funny moments, and I laughed a lot, especially at first, but wasn't as grabbed by it as I was by "Rushmore" or "The Royal Tenenbaums."
One aspect of the film that I appreciated is that the three brothers were constantly crammed into tight, enclosed spaces together -- their train car, the back seat of a car, a bus, two of them hanging out while lying in the same bed -- and you could tell from their faces and body language that they were very comfortable doing so. This completely rings true for me, since while I grew up my family was constantly taking car trips with my brothers and I packed in the back seat together. Even now, at the rare occasion when all five of us are in a car, my brothers and I get in the back seat as if it's completely normal, and if five of us share a hotel room, two of us have to share a bed.
These enclosed spaces create some infantilizing shots -- Jason Schwartzman's and Owen Wilson's characters hanging out while lying together on the bottom bunk, with Adrien Brody craning his head down from the top bunk, for instance. The shot is an example of another aspect of the movie that I liked (and a continuing feature of Anderson's films), which is the way in which it subtly conveyed the idea that these adult characters were still in arrested development, still basically children. I found it comforting to see adult characters -- especially Schwartzman's character, who was probably about my age -- who clearly don't have their shit together.
Like the movie "Into the Wild" and the play "Shipwrecked!" at South Coast Rep, both of which I saw recently, "Darjeeling" is about a young man's spiritual adventure to a new, exotic place. And like those other two two, "Darjeeling" kept prompting my mind to wander off and think about the way in which the story related to me, and there were many -- I've always wanted to travel to India, travel with my brothers, etc. All of these stories hit rather close to home, though too close for comfort, as I do want to travel but I still don't have the means with which to do so. Any travel editors out there?
Finally, as many people will instantly realize while watching the film, given Owen Wilson's character (and I don't want to give anything away), it's an incredible coincidence that this is his first film after his suicide attempt, so much of a coincidence that I found myself wondering if the suicide attempt could have been staged for publicity purposes. The fact that the film has a ten-minute prequel available on iTunes aided this perception, as it shows evidence of a media-savvy director trying to create a buzz and a sort of lore surrounding the film. I'm curious to see what the media will write about this freakish coincidence.