by Jessica Grose
The Darjeeling Limited, 91 minutes
dir. Wes Anderson
When I went to see the BAFTA screening of The Darjeeling Limited, I was kind of in a pissy mood. I hadn’t slept well the night before and wasn’t fucking feeling particularly precious. Which is to say, probably not really in the mood to see a Wes Anderson movie.
That said, the first half of Limited made me want get all up on my feminism 101 high horse and jab Anderson with a spear. The movie is about three dysfunctional brothers called Whitman who take a train ride across India, monogrammed suitcases in tow, to repair their fraught relationship and find some sort of spiritual awakening. The only woman they encounter for the first hour is an Indian stewardess on the train named Rita (though the brothers Whitman refer to her as “sweet lime.”)
“Hymn to the Alcohol” — Hefner (mp3)
Max Fischer and Sweet Lime.
Jason Schwartzman plays Jack, the somewhat lecherous brother with the chi-mo mustache. He fucks sweet lime in a bathroom while the train is in motion.
The exotification of her “otherness” — she gingerly places a small red dot on each of the brother’s foreheads each morning — coupled with her almost complete lack of discernable personality, made me wonder exactly what she was doing in the movie at all.
Rita doesn’t really move the plot forward, she has few lines, and mainly serves as fetishized eye candy for the brothers: note the reflected shot of her lower back in her bedroom mirror later in the film. Her sari has flopped open to reveal just the hint of buttock. Her face is not shown. Laura Mulvey would piss herself.
“Modern Inventions” — The Submarines (mp3)
Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’s own Laura Mulvey
Much has been made of Wes Anderson’s “racism” but I’m more concerned about his sexism. This article from Slate mentions Inez from Bottle Rocket, another fetishized non-Anglo Anderson heroine, but I was more bothered by Natalie Portman in the opening short to Limited, Hotel Chevalier.
Critics have been creaming themselves over this 12 minute distilled essence of Anderson, but I think it’s just an excuse to show Portman’s scrawny posterior. She disrobes completely, while her lover Jason Schwartzman remains clad in his three-piece suit.
At the end of The Darjeeling Limited, when Schwartzman reads the dialogue from Hotel Chevalier to his brothers as if it’s from a short story he’s written, one of them says “I think it’s your best work yet. I like how mean you are.”
“Fleets” — Cedars (mp3)
Also, the movie is really gorgeous to watch for non Adrien Brody-related reasons. All those yellows and oranges and the movement of the train — it’s pretty cool. I guess I just wanted to let you know that Wes Anderson is limited when it comes to considering/ portraying women (ha — see what I did there?).
Jessica Grose lives and writes in Brooklyn. She hopes that Owen Wilson is laying off the junk.
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