Dear Mr. Anderson, I just want to make it clear right away-I am a fan. You’re back again with The Darjeeling Limited–a good film, I might add. Notice I said good. I’m sure it’s not a word you are used to hearing. In general your films are described with words like “amazing,” “brilliant” and “incredible,” but unfortunately with The Darjeeling Limited, all I can say is that it is amazingly…OK.
A letter to Wes Anderson
Dear Mr. Anderson,
I just want to make it clear right away-I am a fan. I’ve seen all your films, and liked or loved most of them (you almost lost me with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou).
And now you’re back again with The Darjeeling Limited–a good film, I might add. Notice I said good. I’m sure it’s not a word you are used to hearing. In general your films are described with words like “amazing,” “brilliant” and “incredible,” but unfortunately with The Darjeeling Limited, all I can say is that it is amazingly…OK.
It stars your favorite actors Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson plus new guy Adrien Brody. The three are bickering brothers on a train journey through the heart of India to mourn the death of their father and confront their estranged mother. It’s very “you.”
Now Wes, (Can I call you Wes?) I’d like to give you some friendly advice … next time try something new. You’ve written about school children, criminals, family and even oceanographers, yet your films always seem so similar. It’s OK to mine familiar territory, but I think your mine is about to collapse.
The Darjeeling Limited has all the obligatory slow-motion shots, (How long would your film have been if it were all shot without slow-mo…an hour?) fighting family members and classic rock songs that we’ve come to expect from your films.
Your only innovation this time around is the brilliant (there’s that word again) idea to use a short film as a disconnected prologue. The short, Hotel Chevalier, which has a career-best performance by Jason Schwartzman and a nearly naked Natalie Portman, is an almost perfect example of short filmmaking. It could have been made by Francois Truffaut; it’s that good.
I don’t want to be too cruel to you, Wes, because you seem a little sensitive. So I’ll give you a few honest compliments.
The relationship between the brothers in the film works very well. Their interplay and backstabbing is the heart of the story and easily keeps the rather straightforward plot moving.
I especially enjoyed the scene where Jack (Schwartzman) tries to separate his fighting brothers by spraying them with a monster-sized can of pepper spray in a cramped train compartment, and then reloads and sprays them again when their aggression turns to him.
This is what you do best: realistic comedy. But sadly, there are few laugh-out-loud moments in your new movie. What I’d really like to see you do is full-on comedy. Few great directors go all out to make us laugh. I think you could be one to do it well.
You might like being in familiar waters, but you are starting to lose me, and I know I’m not alone. I notice your next film listed on the Internet Movie Database will be an animated film about foxes. You are on the right track, but for your next “big person” movie, try getting out of your own head for a while. Maybe adapt a well-known book or let someone else write the screenplay for once.
You obviously have talent. As a writer you can touch on deep human emotions with only a few lines, a rare skill in the overblown, dialogue-happy world of Hollywood. Your characters in this film say more with eye contact than two pages worth of overrated hyperbole that Kevin Smith and his kind churn out. The colors, sets and costumes for The Darjeeling Limited are first rate, and you obviously can assemble a great team.
But someone has to tell you the truth.
You’ve made the same movie enough times. We get it, you are good at what you do. But now it’s time to prove that you are truly as great as you seem to be–by getting beyond your comfort zone and really knocking one out of the park.
From a watchful fan,
Stover E. Harger III
About the Short
Hotel Chevalier, the short film that has preceded The Darjeeling Limited in pre-screenings, may or may not be included in the film’s wide release, but you can download it online for free at www.hotelchevalier.com.