Upon first seeing the trailer for The Darjeeling Limited, I thought, "Hey, Wes Anderson! ...Hmm. It sure does look like a Wes Anderson movie." I'm not alone in this. Lately, there have been a barrage of pieces addressing the very subject. From the yellow titles to the British Invasion music, the '70s-style pans and zooms to the storybook close-up composition, the deadpan dialogue and family issues - this was going to be a Wes Anderson film.
In that regard, Hotel Chavalier, the 13-minute "prequel" to Darjeeling, certainly doesn't disappoint. Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman's performances are subdued, the dialogue is sparse but powerful, the music is great, the atmosphere is sadly beautiful...and it's decidedly pretentious. We've seen lots of these shots lots of times in other Anderson films, and Chevalier is unmistakably Andersonian. Which is fine.
Hey, it's great - like any good Anderson fan, two of my all-time favorites are The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore, but more than a few of us felt The Life Aquatic was just a little too derivative of his own work to be taken as seriously as it wanted. It's a tricky, nearly "damned if you do, damned if you don't" spot to be in when you make your name on an identifiable, praised style with very successful work early in your career. Even if it does feel like he's nearly exhausted this shtick, it's much more interesting than a lot of stuff out there. No doubt Life Aquatic would be more well liked if everyone hadn't seen his earlier movies.
Darjeeling - co-written by Anderson, Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola - looks like it'll be, at the very least, another interesting film. And Chevalier, at the very least, is an interesting marketing ploy (it's availble via download, for free, on iTunes...which is cool, but you still might be asking yourself what the point of the whole thing is).
More encouraging is that Anderson has chosen to adapt Roald Dahl's The Fantastic Mr. Fox as his next project. Shot using stop-motion animation, one could fairly safely assume he'll be going in a different direction with that family film...which sounds good to me.
The Darjeeling Limited opens tomorrow.