The following two paragraphs from A.O. Scott encapsulate pretty well why I’m not rushing out to see The Darjeeling Limited:
â€œThe Darjeeling Limitedâ€ amounts finally to a high-end, high-toned tourist adventure. I donâ€™t mean this dismissively; it would be hypocritical of me to deny the delights of luxury travel to faraway lands. And Mr. Andersonâ€™s eye for local color â€” the red-orange-yellow end of the spectrum in particular â€” is meticulous and admiring.
But humanism lies either beyond his grasp or outside the range of his interests. His stated debt to â€œThe River,â€ Jean Renoirâ€™s film about Indian village life, and his use of music from the films of Satyajit Ray represent both an earnest tribute to those filmmakers and an admission of his own limitations. They were great directors because they extended the capacity of the art form to comprehend the world that exists. He is an intriguing and amusing director because he tirelessly elaborates on a world of his own making. (link)
Are people planning to stand in line for this one? I’m not; after four quirky films (and one amusing AmEx commercial), I’m bored of Wes Anderson’s whole approach to filmmaking, which I call “quirky for quirky’s sake.” It’s not that quirky is always bad; I found Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, for instance, pretty compelling — and that was a damn quirky film. But I often feel like Wes Anderson’s approach to filmmaking is to simply think, “wouldn’t it be funny if the old Indian manservant stabbed Bill Murray with a pen-knife at this point?” And then do it, just for the excitement that comes with absurdity.
And as much as I was intrigued by Anderson’s use of Waris Ahluwalia in The Life Aquatic (he’s credited in Darjeeling Limited as well), the non-speaking part in that film made the striking Ahluwalia into a sort of exotic turbaned curiosity. Ahluwalia’s role in Spike Lee’s Inside Man, though brief, was much more provocative and engaging. Even if audiences didn’t sympathize with Ahluwalia’s character as much as one would have liked, at least that role led to a meaningful reaction.
Incidentally, there is another travel film with India as a destination coming out. Though from the review, Outsourced does seem to flirt a bit with cliches, I’m much more interested in it than I am in Darjeeling at present.