Natalie Portman naked. Normally those words are used to drive gullible people to fraudulent web sites. In this case, those words will drive you to see The Darjeeling Limited before it leaves theaters.
The film is preceded by Hotel Chevalier, a short film starring Natalie and Jason Schwartzman. It provides a little backstory and context for the main film. It also provides you with an excellent reason to shell out $10.
I could make this review entirely about Natalie’s glorious visage. Forget launching a thousand ships; she could make Farrakhan convert to Judaism1. But anyone who’d find that a worthwhile read is already at Fandango looking up show times.
And it would be unfair to the film, which is worth $10 on its own. For the first two acts, I felt this was Wes Anderson’s best work since Rushmore. Intriguing characters, great humor. Fantastic visual storytelling with beautiful sets. I can easily see this receiving Oscar nominations for art direction and cinematography. And speaking of beauty, Natalie isn’t the only babe in film. We’re introduced to Amara Karan, Sri Lanka’s answer to Rosario Dawson. And there’s even some gorgeous Louis Vuitton luggage (or is it baggage?) that gets its own prominent credit.2
Beyond the visuals there are some great songs on the soundtrack3. Instead of an original score, it comprises songs from other Indian films along with some British invasion classics. In particular, the theme song (Where Do You Go To (My Lovely) by Peter Sarstedt) has been stuck in my head since I left the theater. It tells the tale of a girl from modest means who enters high society in 1960’s Paris. Very Holly Golightly, causing me to draw further parallels between Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Portman. It’s first played during Natalie’s brief appearance, and I’ll probably forever associate it with her. It’s a hauntingly beautiful song, but don’t take my word for it. Have a listen (and pay attention to the lyrics):
My only complaint about the film is that pacing seemed to slow quite a bit during the third act4 . It made the film feel longer than it was, even though the run time is only 91 minutes. I began to expect closing credits at the end of each scene. However, I must give it props for a fitting and highly metaphorical final scene. It just takes a little while to get there.
Unfortunately, I can’t find it for sale anywhere, and it’s not listed on LV’s web site. I know it was custom made, as it was painted by Wes Anderson’s brother. But I was hoping to find a limited run somewhere, even if there’s no chance of affording it before I strike it rich. [↩]
The Crack Team is awesome at finding awesome videos. The latest awesome video is called Awesometown, submitted by awesome Agent Doubledeuce. Check out the Dudes’ Cut, which is NSFW, and hilarious. These are the same guys who brought us the SNL videos Lazy Sunday and the Natalie Portman Rap. Speaking of which, I did not think it was possible to want Natalie more, but that was before I saw her hardcore gangsta rap stylings. We love you Natalie!
Agent Masterchief submitted the gamer’s love song by Tripod. It’s more for console gamers than strategists, but I think we can all appreciate the lyrics. Your girlfriend will appreciate them even more.
I saw Closer tonight, which I thought was extremely well written. It’s one of those films I could tell was adapted from a play, which made it better. Of course, I love dialogue films, so I’m biased (but that’s why you’re reading this). I think I was most surprised at how often I laughed, considering the dour themes and crumbling love lives, deceit and verbal evisceration. However… However. Rumors of a topless Natalie Portman have been greatly exaggerated. If I missed them (and believe me, I was looking for them, desperately) I’ll watch it again. Don’t get me wrong, you see quite a bit of her, and she is just so desirable it’ll confirm your faith in God and screenwriters.
On a related note, I can also see why there’s a ground swell of support for Clive Owen as the new James Bond. While a tremendously different genre, he came across as powerful, sharp, dark. Jude Law has reportedly stated he’s not interested in the role, and just as well. I do like his work, and I think he’d do a fine job, but Clive would do better.
I saw Garden State tonight. It was definitely good, but I got myself psyched up for brilliance, or at least something that spoke to me on a very personal level. There it fell short. Oh, as a hopeful screenwriter, it spoke to me, mainly as a guy who would love to write a screenplay that attracted Natalie Portman, then cast myself as the guy who gets to kiss her. That connection was made, wide and deep.
But as a guy who spent his formative years in Jersey (2/3 of my life, really), I felt there was very little to connect to. We are taught in screenwriting to come up with a great title, something that tells you what the film is about. When you’re stuck, or feel off course, you can go back to it like a compass. Garden State, however, is about its main character, Andrew Largeman. (Perhaps Largeman didn’t test as well.) Even though we both left Jersey for SoCal about 9 years ago, I didn’t feel we shared the same background. I felt Clerks “got” Jersey far better. This could’ve been set in many other states.
It’s a charming movie, though, and a great freshman effort. While the writing could have been tightened, the directing was solid. He had some strong, memorable visuals, and a soundtrack so good I was pissed I couldn’t buy it immediately. The performances were great, albeit from a fantastic cast. I’m not sure why I like Peter Sarsgaard so much, maybe it’s the credibility he lends to scenes. He’s also exudes a certain intensity.