Each weekend, The Back Row compiles a short selection of recommendations for readers’ weekend viewing. The links are for the convenience of those who wish to stream the films on the suggested websites (make sure it’s available in your territory before entering your payment details); readers may well prefer other sites with alternative arrangements for the streaming and downloading of films, and can’t be stopped from using those instead.
“The Darjeeling Limited” (Wes Anderson, 2007)
The Darjeeling Limited, which reached the tenth anniversary of its theatrical release this week, is perhaps the worst received feature film by Wes Anderson — at 69%, it has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score, and, when I searched for them, I very quickly found a large number of decidedly negative critical responses to it online — but it’s one of my very favourites, and not only among Anderson’s films. It has in common with the others (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, and The Grand Budapest Hotel) all the hallmarks of Anderson’s style and thematic interests, and the ways in which it’s different are mostly what brought about such strong reactions to it — strongly negative, in the case of some internet commentators; strongly disappointed, in the case of Anderson fans who prefer his earlier or later works (or both); and strongly ecstatic, in those, like me, who see something of great artistry and unparalleled beauty in it.
The story concerns three brothers, convened by the eldest, Francis (Owen Wilson), for a journey across India on a luxurious train known as The Darjeeling Limited. Francis, Peter (Adrien Brody), and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) Whitman have recently lost their father, and Francis has survived a near-fatal motorcycle accident, prompting him to reconnect with his somewhat estranged brothers and mother, on a wishful journey of epiphanies and redemption. The pained and strained family relations are redolent of those in The Royal Tenenbaums, even more so when Anjelica Huston appears to play Patricia, the brothers’ mother. Anderson has once again taken a sharp and deeply empathic view of the unique energies of family life through the prism of bourgeois comfort and privilege, and it’s a marvel, as always, to feel how keenly the emotions represented and conveyed by his film are evoked while he maintains so loftily ironic a position in presenting it. (I find that the most distinctive moments of humour in Anderson’s films arise from the tensions, as well as felicitous alignments, between precisely this emotional force and grand, overarching irony.)