That said, “Darjeeling” has some winning performances, some great humorous moments and seems to reintroduce us to the wacky sensibility that made us love the director in the first place. “Darjeeling” is not without it’s problems, but it is a very funny and amusing film.
Peter (Adrian Brody) runs to catch the Darjeeling Limited which is pulling out of a train station in a major Indian city. He soon joins his two brothers, Francis (Owen Wilson) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman). Francis planned this trip, with the help of his beleaguered assistant, Brendan (Wallace Wolodarsky, a former producer on “The Simpsons”), because they have not spoken in over a year. He misses their conversation, their sibling rivalry and their companionship. Francis has the entire trip planned, down to the religious ceremonies they will perform at various holy sights. But when the brothers start to act up, due to a variety of circumstances, including divergent personalities, over the counter medicines and a poisonous snake, the Chief Steward (Waris Ahluwalia) kicks them off the train in the middle of the dessert. Francis soon reveals his hidden agenda and they pull together to get through the trip and become brothers again.
Each of Wes Anderson’s films has a style unique to the filmmaker. Each of his films is populated by a collection of off-center people who live eccentric lives in an eccentric environment. Generally, his characters have money, either as a new circumstance or their bank accounts are dwindling, but they are still used to living a certain way. “The Darjeeling Limited” is no exception. From the moment we meet Francis, we begin to learn he has a company of his own, and feels the need to show this off by bringing his assistant along on the trip. Brenda will drop off their schedule every morning, under the door of their compartment, before they even wake up. They brought along a computer and laminating machine to aid in this task. As Jack runs to catch the train, he is carrying a couple of pieces of odd luggage, luggage that would probably be more comfortable in the hands of a child, each piece appears to have dinosaur stickers plastered over it. As he enters the compartment he will share with his brothers, we see many other pieces of the same luggage, all of it an exact match down to the monogram. Anderson goes to a lot of trouble to design every aspect of the universe his characters will inhabit. From what I understand, he designed every aspect of the train cars we see in the film. This attention to detail shows, giving the main setting for a significant portion of the film a character; these train compartments are interesting and unique, they appear like something we would expect to find in India, but are so gaudy and over decorated, like a British Lord initially commissioned them. Now independent, the Indians seem determined to uphold the tradition of the train cars while injecting their own indigenous traditions to the interior.
Each of the three leads is good and adds significantly to the overall quirky nature of the film. Owen Wilson, who has been the focus of a number of tabloid stories lately, plays Francis, the more domineering brother. At dinner, he orders food for his brothers. And he is also the force behind the trip and their itinerary. He set-up the trip because he realized the three brothers were not communicating anymore and needed some bonding time.
As the more domineering, fussy member of the family, Wilson’s Francis is the least funny of the three. It doesn’t help that Wilson’s slow drawl sort of lends a whiny quality to his character. But he is still good. When the brothers get together, they slowly start to devolve into the children they once were and Francis finds his role, mother hen.
Adrian Brody’s Peter is an interesting guy. He agrees to go on the trip because he is having some trouble with his girlfriend back home and wants to escape for a while. A grown man, he is unable to hide his former self when he gets together with his brothers; Francis decides Peter should have the top bunk, his long legs dangling over the side and the gangly brother is chugging some over the counter Indian pain medicine, which his siblings begin to share. But Peter seems to recognize the need for the bonding time and goes along with his brother’s overbearing plans.
I have never been a huge fan of Jason Schwartzman, but he is also good as Jack, clearly the youngest brother. There are some references to his life as a successful writer, living in Paris, trying to get over his ex-girlfriend. Jack carries around a short story he just competed and eagerly seeks the approval of his other brothers.
From the moment they board the train, Jack is smitten with Rita (Amara Karan), an employee on the train, a sort of stewardess who makes sure the guests have enough refreshments. She recognizes the look in Jack’s eyes as he continues to pursue her.
Anjelica Huston pops up in a small role as Patricia, a nun living in a small monastery at the foot of the Himalayas. Patricia once played a role in the lives of the three men and their visit with her is cathartic.
As much as there is to love about “Darjeeling”, it makes a similar mistake to “The Life Aquatic”, a mistake that derails the Bill Murray film. Thankfully, the events in “Darjeeling” only prove to provide an odd side trip in their journey. A confusing side trip at that; the events really seem to have no connection to the brothers or their journey. I think the key difference here is “Life Aquatic” ends with this event, leaving us with this as our final memory. In “Darjeeling”, the similar event happens earlier, giving us some story to help us forget the problematic part of the story.
“The Darjeeling Limited” is a quirky, fun, funny look at three brothers on a road trip. There are also a few surprised sure to delight many in the audience.