Under-Acting Is The New Over-Acting?

October 1, 2007
Adrien Brody. Owen Wilson. Jason Schwartzman. Lost in India.

I watched Hotel Chevalier once it was released on itunes, but refrained from commenting on it until after I’d seen The Darjeeling Limited. I’m glad I gave it that two or three day waiting period, and the addition of some context didn’t hurt.

I think.

You see, I’ve had a running problem with a few of the popular indie/twee films of the past decade (e.g. Lost in Translation and Rushmore). It seems actors like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman have discovered they can under-act to the point of sleepwalking through a role and still receive fairly flattering commentary from the critical base. (Note: I have no actual proof of their critical success. Just go with me here.)

I know that both Murry and Schwartzman are talented and have shown a more dynamic range of emotion in other movies. So when Hotel Chevalier was 13 minutes of Jason Schwartzman looking implacable, my hopes for The Darjeeling Limited were seriously undermined.

Perhaps because of those slightly lowered expectations, I was pleasantly surprised at the liveliness of The Darjeeling Limited. Of course, like most of Wes Anderson’s films it still left me with a strange desire for more information, more exposition. But alas, it was not to be. I suppose that, also like most of Wes Anderson’s films, I should be satisfied with the fact that I enjoyed it and not second-guess the details.

And thats what makes me think that focusing on Jason Schwartzman as a walking advertisement for lithium might be missing the forest for the trees. The characters fuction in the first as focal points for Anderson’s preciously organized sets and in the second as a sound board for dialogue which propels the plot forward towards more preciously organized set-pieces (and the occasional rumination on the difficulties of escaping the past).

Maybe focusing on any particular part of this movie (especially the actors, like we reflexively do on most other movies) really misses the point. Maybe Schwartzman, as an actor, is just as important as the luggage he carries.