Louis Malle, François Truffaut, Robert Altman, and Tim Burton came over to my house one time and we all started talking about this new guy, Wes Anderson. The general consensus was, we were sick and tired of getting ripped off by his goofy “style”. One of us came up with the idea that we should try to rip HIM off, and see how he likes it. That sounded like fun to me, so I went for it.
The Darjeeling Limited centers around three brothers who all exhibit regular Wes Anderson bullshit: rich self-centered brats who make the world suffer because they all have issues with their daddy. Take one interesting character and divide by three, then distinguish them from each other by making them look goofy as fuck. Done and Done!
Brother number one is a dwarf with a big mustache so lets call him Cochese. He’s emotionally dependent on a woman who hates him and he hates back. Obviously this is a shitty relationship scenario, but he can’t let her go because her short, spunky haircut makes her look kind of like his dad. When they have sex, he makes her scold him for bad prep-school grades and an episode of M*A*S*H* has to be going on the tv.
Brother number two is played by a prosthetic-enhanced version of Archie’s buddy, Jughead. This guy loved his dad so much that he can’t let go of all the dead guy’s stuff. He wears his dad’s glasses, clothes, cologne, fake Adam’s apple, and attitude. He’s so desperate to be like his dad that he’s totally ditched the lady he got pregnant, ensuring that there will be at least one more generation of Wes Anderson characters to be enjoyed by people who drive Volkswagens.
Brother number three is a comic book character named Hush. Instead of wanting to have sex with or be like his dad, he out-and-out wants to kill the fucker. But since his dad is already dead, he chooses Batman as a substitute. When that doesn’t work out, he settles for torturing his brothers instead. Like many comic book villains, he is a master at planning and manipulation, won’t take “no” for an answer, and is a complete and utter dumbshit.
So these three assholes go on a highly relatable journey. They quit their shitty lives for a month, go to India, board a train that looks like an ethnic Barbie Doll Dreamhouse on rails, and make light of an entire culture by doing drugs and lazily co-opting every easy spiritual remedy found in the Fodor’s Guide to India. This is supposed to bring them together as a family and cure their respective depressions. What it ends up doing instead is cost you nine hard-earned bucks for something you could have seen for free at any local daycare center for the handicapped.
Nothing really happens. They just travel around bitching at each other. Occasionally Cochese and Jugghead talk about going back home so they can at least eat well while being pointless, but Hush finds new ways to talk them into staying. His most effective trick is, “Uh…I’ll try to kill myself if you leave.” Whenever this happens, an acoustic British Invasion song usually kicks in, and the brothers are moved to give this pathetic piece of shit one more chance, which he immediately abuses.
They’re mean to everyone they run into. Cochese manages to destroy a marriage simply by licking his hand, while the other two brothers fail to save a boy from drowning because their maids and butlers always did the swimming for them. They walk around throwing candy wrappers on the ground and wiping their butts with local currency while starving people look on in awe. That’s okay though because this is supposed to be a Wes Anderson movie and the emotional problems of depressed American brats are of INTERNATIONAL importance.
Nevertheless, while they get and do whatever they want, other people don’t like them. Even when they track down their mom, she makes every effort not to throw up at the sight of them and ditches their sorry asses first chance she gets. I’ve made unlikeable people likable before, but this deep into Wes Anderson territory I had no idea how to make these guys sympathetic. In copying the guy, I’d found myself out of my league. I guess I have to respect him for that.
Instead of trying to fix this, I just gave up. My thinking was, if I stopped the movie without achieving any kind of arc or resolution, I might be able to trick intellectuals into thinking it had ambiguous depth. I ended with one more combo of slo-mo and acoustic British Invasion music, this time on top of a visual metaphor I found while flipping through a copy of the Complete Idiot’s Guide to Literature. It only tricked about half the critics and movie goers, but as the late, great Meatloaf once said, “One out of two ain’t bad.”
Behind every great book adaptation is a forgettable first try. — By Ryan Covey