Have you ever been around someone who seems
like a genius the first time you meet them. Maybe even in subsequent
encounters they still strike you as brilliant. This has happened
to me a shitload of times. Like the fat guy who lives in a converted
shed down the street. He stopped me once while I was driving
the Galaxie and told me the carb floats were set too high. The
guy could tell just by hearing me drive by at idle.
If that's not genius, what is? I never heard
that Einstein tuned a car by ear at twenty-five feet. The fat
guy turned out to be a bonafide genius about carbs. A pedophile,
too, but I didn't know that until the cops came around. After
Fatty fixed my warm hardstarting with only a flathead screwdriver
I started bringing all my problems to him. And he had a solution
for everything. Drinking acetone cures impotence. Give my wife
a tub of udder cream for Christmas. Urine stains can be taken
out of carpet by urinating on them. If Mrs. Filthy's making
me sleep in the garage, take this note over to that seven-year-old
boy who is playing shirtless in his front yard. No, don't read
I learned that genius can be compartmentalized.
Fatty may have known about carbs like I know the oeuvre of Candy
Bottoms, but he was wrong about every other fucking thing he
told me. The acetone made my stomach lining dissolve and I sweated
blood for eight weeks. I ended up using all the udder cream
one weekend in November when Mrs. Filthy was out of town and
I found a stash of coffee-stained pornos behind the fire station.
And urinating on urine stains just makes larger urine stains.
Basically, I stopped asking that guy for advice about anything
except carbs... and moisturizers.
Wes Anderson is a lot like Fatty Carb Man. Not
necessarily a pedophile. Just a man whose genius is very compartmentalized.
He's fun to meet, talk to a couple times, but then the law of
diminishing returns kicks in and every subsequent visit is loaded
with either bad information, or repetition. Pretty soon, you're
dreading seeing Fatty, or Wes, because you know it's going to
I loved Wes Anderson's first two movies, Bottle
Rocket and Rushmore. They're fucking brilliant. They
were fresh, with a new tone, funny characters and real heros.
Since then, though, Anderson's been running in place in the
tiny compartment of his genius. He doesn't even seem to be trying
to expand his abilities. What he appears to be doing is contracting
the part of the movie he can control and supplant it with bigger
budgets, more spectacular scenery and larger casts.
The Darjeeling Limited is fucking gorgeous
to look at. A train ride through the exotica of India with cobras,
bazaars, camels, one unbelievably hot (especially in glasses)
Indian stewardess (Amara Karan) and painted cows. There are
small rural villages and large temples, the crazy traffic and
crush of its population. Oh, and least important, thjere is
a nominal story of three brothers (Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman
and Owen Wilson) trying to reconnect one year after the death
of their father. Wilson, apparently a millionaire, lures his
two brothers onto the trip claiming it will be a spiritual journey
that will heal the fractures among them. In reality, he's taking
them to see their mother, who is now in a convent on a hilltop.
Each of the boys has some pop psychology problem
that needs the fatherly guidance they no longer have. Schwarzman
obsesses over an ex, Brody is about to have a child but isn't
sure he's ready, and Wilson has just tried to commit suicide,
clearly unhappy with his success and wealth.
None of that means much, though. It's just an
excuse for what little taciturn, quirky dialog there is among
these selfish siblings. The story is broken into three distinct
acts. In the first, the brothers board the train, ride, tour
the countryside and bicker. It's tedious and pointless. In the
second, they rescue two Indian boys from drowning and are accepted
into a rural village, despite the heavy sadness around the loss
of a third boy. This is the only resonant and involving part
of the story. In the third act, they continue their journey
to meet their mother, who doesn't want to see them. Again, this
part of the story has no thrust or importance. Although the
incident with the boys is supposed to be the spiritual breakthrough
the boys need, it isn't very well linked to the end or the beginning.
It feels like an isolated moment of poignance in a story about
boys who are so emotionally retarded they are beyond redemption.
I don't know if Anderson thinks everyone is
always unhappy. In Rushmore, Max Fisher is relentlessly
happy and resilient. He is the sould of the movie and the joy
is watching his ignorant can-do spirit rub off on sad sacks.
B ut now, Anderson isn't able to bring joy to anything. He's
just working with the sad sacks, and as long as they're self-absorbed,
unhappy and plan to stay that way, they might as well be middle-class
housewives in New Yorker short stories, or the stars
Anderson can make a gorgeous movie. He captures
India in a non-cloying way, where unusual things like wildlife
and palaces are side by side with rickshaws and huts. I imagine
it's both a flattering and realistic view of the country. What
he can't do is get out of his God damn shell long enough to
give us a reason to give a fuck about these asshole brothers.
They are quirkly, and speak in short, staccato bursts. They
reveal some unusual insights, but the movie also dwells too
long on the obvious: the train ride is like the ride of life;
their father's physical luggage represents their emotional luggage;
blood is thicker than water; you can't plan a spiritual awakening.
It's almost as though the director believes more in technique
than what he has to say anymore.
The Darjeeling Limited makes me want
to go to India. But not with these assholes. They can ride the
train alone and keep all their selfish misery bottled up. Anderson
is probably stilla genius, but I think I don't need him anymore.