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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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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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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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