A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, like most Wes Anderson films, this quirky comedy deals with emotional baggage and relationships, which will probably bore younger teens (despite the presence of Wedding Crashers star Owen Wilson). The three protagonist brothers drink and share a love of prescription and over-the-counter drugs. There's a scene of peril when they try to save three young Indian boys from drowning. A dead child is shown, as is his Indian funeral fire. Suicide is briefly mentioned, and the death of a father is discussed on several occasions. There's one sex scene, although except for some passionate kissing, it's off screen. Language includes "f--k" and "s--t" but isn't incessant. Parents should also know that a short called Hotel Chevalier comes with the DVD and it contains more nudity.
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What's the story?
Writer-director Wes Anderson is a master at capturing eccentricities and emotional baggage. His latest characters, co-created by film-industry cousins Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola, are three brothers who've reunited after a year of not speaking to take a life-changing trip through India on a luxury train. The brothers are Francis (Owen Wilson), who planned the journey and shows up with a heavily bandaged face; Peter (Adrien Brody), who left his seven-months-pregnant wife for the trip; and Jack (Schwartzman), a short-story writer with a thing for the train's pretty first-class attendant. Accompanying the trio is a massive amount of numbered, monogrammed Louis Vuitton luggage -- the brand signifies a large fortune, and the monogram belongs to their dead father. The train ride is just the first act. After they're thrown off for a laundry list of transgressions -- including bedding an on-duty employee, smoking in their compartment, and smuggling a poisonous snake on board -- the brothers end up in a small Indian village where they witness a tragic incident that changes their outlook ... and the tone of the film.
Is it any good?
Anderson's tale of slightly twisted brothers is worth seeing, mostly for the performances and the landscapes, but it also lacks a cohesiveness. Part upscale family road trip and part spiritual journey, it's funny and poignant -- but far from perfect.
The extravagant, ever-present luggage -- as any 11th-grade English student could assess -- is the literal representation of years of dysfunction. The brothers, particularly Francis, keep mentioning "how we were raised," but beyond the fact that their father is dead and their mother (Anjelica Huston) is prone to running away (she's a nun near the Himalayas), just how they were brought up to become so idiosyncratic remains a mystery. Once the brothers are kicked off the train the film segues into mood-capturing cinematography, and this portion of the film is also remarkable because there's very little dialogue. There's also a fascinating, almost silent performance by revelatory Indian actor Irfan Khan as a grieving father.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether Wes Anderson's movies are funny, sad, or both. Why? How is his style of comedy different from other filmmakers'? How is this movie similar to and different from his other films? Some critics have complained that the film's second act, which takes place in a small Indian village, is offensive. What do you think about that part of the film? Is it appropriate, or is its tragedy out of place with the rest of the film?
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