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“The Darjeeling Limited”

“The Darjeeling Limited” (photo)

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Wes Anderson, I love you, but you’re bringing me down. The hermetically sealed world of your films — the man-children; the inexplicable melancholy; the flat, wide shots; the fetishized artifacts of adolescence and carefully chosen vintage pop soundtracks — has always resonated so strongly for me. I shrugged off all accusations of tweeness, I defended “The Life Aquatic” against the most virulent of critics, I saw in that AmEx commercial promising signs of self-awareness and gentle self-mockery. But with “The Darjeeling Limited” you may have finally vanished into your own well-contemplated navel and, I’m sorry to say, lost me entirely.

“The Darjeeling Limited”‘s dysfunctional family includes the three wealthy Whitman brothers: Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman). A year ago their father was hit by a taxi and killed in New York, and the three haven’t spoken or seen each other since his funeral. A near-death experience prompts Francis to organize a sibling reunion aboard a train traveling through India, where they’ll attempt to achieve spiritual enlightenment by visiting shrines and following the advice of a guru, all things laid out on daily laminated agendas by Francis’ assistant. Francis is the controlling one, Peter the nervous one and Jack the writer/ladies’ man/runaway, but they barely conform to those identifiers — mostly, they’re a squabbling three-headed, puppy-eyed monster wolfing down prescription meds and toting around a lot of figurative and literal baggage (designed by Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton — this may be the first film to costar a matching suitcase set). The three are all in the grip of the kind of bruise-eyed, deep-rooted malaise that so often plagues Anderson characters, on the Whitmans’ part because they’re still mourning their father and because their mother has abandoned them. It’s hard to blame her — the Whitman brothers, despite the considerable charm of the actors playing them, just aren’t very likable. They’re stylized imaginings of poor little rich boys whose main burden in life is a search of meaning, a tough sell even without the petulance and the fighting over $6,000 belts. They mistreat people until they’re thrown off to fend for themselves, leading them to the inevitable moment of real-life trauma that breaks the film’s bubble of whimsy and forces the characters to find their way to an emotional epiphany, a segment that, when it arrives, feels jarringly and insultingly unearned.

Anderson’s world is shrinking, from the full run of Rushmore Academy to 111 Archer Avenue to the Belafonte to “The Darjeeling Limited”‘s titular train, which in one shot is shown to contain all of the characters of the film in their own cramped, themed compartments. The natural progression is for his next film to take place entirely in a series of intricate dioramas (which I suppose is one way you could look at the planned stop-motion “Fantastic Mr. Fox”). There’s no denying that Anderson could use a bit of fresh air and a look outward. The film is still rife with reminders of his talent: the aforementioned pan along the train; another encounter out of two separate windows as it travels in the night; an early shot in luxurious slow-mo as Adrien Brody runs past Bill Murray — in a tiny role, billed simply as “The Businessman,” he seems, more poignantly, in retrospect, to be a stand-in for Whitman Sr. — while the Kinks’ “This Time Tomorrow” surfaces to overwhelm the soundtrack. But these moments are adrift in a whole lot of half-hearted crap. Maybe it really is time to put the prolonged boyhood to rest — there are plenty of genuinely sad things happening out there in the world to make all this unaccountable, fanciful woe seem past its due date.

“The Darjeeling Limited” opens in New York on September 29th (official site).

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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