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“The Darjeeling Limited”

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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “The Darjeeling Limited,” Fox Searchlight, 2007]

Is Wes Anderson’s schtick getting tired, or am I simply getting tired of Wes Anderson’s schtick? This is what I know: I was as big a fan of Anderson’s after “Rushmore” as has existed on this earth. But his each of his succeeding films — from “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou” and now “The Darjeeling Limited” — has touched me less than the one before it. I can remember the rush of shock that met me when I saw “Rushmore” for the first time — there was a movie brimming with cinematic invention. It felt new and special and unique. I think the most frustrating thing about Anderson’s new movie is that that sense of surprise his films used to provide is completely gone. At this point, we all know what a “Wes Anderson movie” is going to be. His work was once a break from convention; now he’s practically a genre unto himself.

There is a distinction to be made between a director exploring a personal theme over and over and a director making the same movie over and over. Hitchcock was obsessed with icy blondes and mistaken identities but he examined those ideas in movies as radically different as “North by Northwest” and “Marnie.” Unfortunately, I find it increasingly difficult to tell one Anderson movie from the next which, in turn, feeds that feeling that there is nothing in “The Darjeeling Limited” that I haven’t seen before, from the aggressively immature brothers Francis, Peter and Jack (played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) and their perpetually dour demeanors to the British Invasion soundtrack and dreamy slow-motion cinematography.

The brothers board the titular train as part of an attempt to reconnect after the death of their father and the disastrous funeral that their mother (Anjelica Huston) did not attend. All the brothers have problems: Francis is badly beaten after an automobile accident (which, as tabloids circling Wilson’s personal problems have already noted, is likely self-induced); Jack is reeling from another busted relationship with a woman; Peter’s too busy dealing with his father issues to get a grip on the fact that he’s about to become one himself. The train ride and several extensive detours into the Indian countryside are transformative, of course, though not in the ways the brothers initially intended.

The one member of the creative team who does impress is Schwartzman, who collaborated with Anderson and Roman Coppola on the screenplay, and who gives the finest and most complex performance in the company. After he followed the runaway success of “Rushmore” with his, shall we say, less than impressive turns in films like “Slackers,” one might have been tempted to write Schwartzman off as a footnote on the indie film landscape of the late-1990s. But he made a strong impression in Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette” and here exudes a surprising amount of charisma (aided, no doubt, by one of the finest cinematic moustaches in ages). With time, he could become the least likely but most beloved leading man of the day, a, Elliott Gould for the ’00s.

Anderson’s direction is confident, maybe a little too confident. There’s no sense of daring or risk, just calm complacency. Back in college, I once got into an argument with a roommate over a rock band whose just-released new album was radically different than the previous one we’d spent all year listening to. He argued that the new record stunk because it was nothing like the last one; I said who cares about that, it’s still a great CD with tons of great tracks — which it was — and you have to admire artists who constantly push themselves and try new things. We could have been talking about Anderson. If you want to see him repeat the same movie he’s made for going on a decade now — the same sorta-jokes, the same old music, the same stock shots — you’ll probably enjoy “The Darjeeling Limited.” But if you’re a fan like me, and you believe him capable of much bigger, more dynamic things, you may find yourself wondering when Wes Anderson will get around to making something that isn’t just another “Wes Anderson movie.”

See Alison Willmore’s review of the film from last week here.

“The Darjeeling Limited” is now in theaters (official site).

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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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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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

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