“The Darjeeling Limited” (Fox Searchlight) is famed director Wes Anderson’s fifth contribution to the cannon of cinema. Once again, Anderson perfects his eccentric and whimsical style in his latest melancholy-infused comedy.
Three brothers, Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schawartzman), set out to begin a spiritual quest on a luxury train liner through agrarian India. Francis appears throughout the entirety of the film with a mangled and bruised face and body from an uncertain and poorly described accident. Peter, faced with the imminent birth of his first son, uses this opportunity for spiritual enlightenment as an escape attempt. And Jason Schwartzman as the youngest brother, Jack, secretly and obsessively checks the messages on his ex-girlfriend’s answering machine. “Hotel Chevalier,” a 13-minute short film available for free download, acts as the first part to “Darjeeling Limited” and further explains this relationship. Word to the wise – it may be a good idea to see this before viewing the whole film.
The brothers have not seen or spoken to each other in the year since their father died, and older brother Francis has determined that they are in need of peace and clarity – scheduled peace and clarity, that is.
It becomes evident from the start that Francis is up to his old tricks again, micro-managing their itinerary (luckily he has stashed a laminating machine and a permanently bald assistant in another compartment) and ordering food for his brothers. The latter scene involves the hilarious chemistry between the three leads and establishes a high bar early on in the film. Francis has secretly arranged for their visit to a Himalayan convent, where their renegade mother (in a wonderful, yet glorified cameo by Anderson favorite Angelica Houston) has escaped to.
Throughout their journey, the brothers, with the help of many Indian porters, lug around a magnificent luggage set inherited by them from their father. The credits reveal the luggage set to be a part of the Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton line. And, indeed, only the most fabulous and over the top luggage could be used to truly stand as a metaphor for the significant amount of emotional baggage carried by the three brothers. They fight and bicker over who was their father’s favorite, who gets his stuff, where they go, and what they pray for. They distrust and compete with each other, a dynamic that results in a hilarious scene involving a pepper spray gun.
I must admit, I watched the trailer pensively. “Darjeeling Limited” initially looked too over the top, too bogged down in Wes Anderson’s signature schtick. I vividly recall trying to think of other examples of five movies from the same director that were all not only good, but great. However, my initial misgivings gave way to total admiration. “Darjeeling Limited” is funny, sorrowful, sympathetic, beautifully scored, well acted, smartly laced with wit and irony, and evokes the vibrant mysteries of India.