The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

January 27, 2014
Photo Credit: The Darjeeling Limited / Fox Searchlight Pictures
Having seen The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou ions ago, I've held a quiet unrequited love for director Wes Anderson's style. Having always wanted to watch more of his work, I was so happy that my next stop on a tour of his filmography was The Darjeeling Limited.

Three brothers Jack, Francis, and Peter Whitman gather in India a year after their father's death. Different obstacles have brought them reluctantly together on a train called The Darjeeling Limited. Jack (Jason Schwartzman) is a short story writer with a temperamental girlfriend and a penchant for not knowing or paying attention to anything happening around him. Peter (Adrien Brody) is temporarily escaping from a marriage where he has always feared will end in catastrophic divorce for no specific reason. Francis (Owen Wilson) has determinately brought them all together in the hope that they will undergo "a spiritual experience where they each seek the unknown and learn from it".

For as simple as the story might seem, it's intricately woven with subtle meanings about life and death. The trunks and heavy suitcases each character drag along with them become the emotional and mental baggage they just won't let go. How the brothers interact seem all in good boyish charm until I took a step back and realized the depth of their dialogue.

Francis takes on his mothers' orderly manners making them promise things they reluctantly feel like keeping. Peter swiping the last of his father's belongings always trying to hold onto a piece of his past. And Jack in the middle of his two brothers trying to keep the peace, though perhaps he is still the most mischievous of the trio. Each has their own supply of painkillers that they cautiously share - though to rid themselves of physical pain or emotional trauma can't be fully determined. There are so many succinct details binding the love that they share, it's impossible to take notice in one viewing.

While watching the film, something kept nagging at me. It was a positive nagging, something about Anderson's films that I wanted to find a way to label or explain. In the midst of his quick editing and wonderfully scripted timing, it hit me. Like the 1930s murder mysteries of Classic Hollywood (but without the murders), there are much deeper intricate stories at work disguised under his bold and colorful direction. His characters are biting yet have layers of somber lying underneath. Directional style intersects humor, adventure, and romance, and just about every damn frame is audaciously beautiful, cheeky, and mellow. Though veteran actors like Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Angelica Houston have paired up with him numerous times, Anderson's films are most refreshingly not all that Hollywoodized.

Anderson's characters having suffered the loss of their father and the abandonment of their mother stream through India on a strict itinerary Francis orders his assistant to prepare. Their bonding is constantly sidetracked by two-sided confessions, brotherly rowdiness, and misunderstandings. Eventually, they're left stranded in the middle of the desert. Yet all the experiences they were meant to have in order to undergo a spiritual awakening leaves them involved in the accidental death of a young boy. And then their emotion obstacles come undone. As you watch them bounce off each other verbally and emotionally, in the beginning, you may not be quite so sure where the film is leading...and yet it just takes you to this beautiful place of having been fulfilled with joy, sorrow, and above all, hope.

Voyeuristically, Anderson captures the rapturous energy of India. Every scene naturally comes together yet feels ornately planned and executed. Wilson, Brody, and Schwartzman's performances are joyous and marked with distinct skin-deep pain. They are playful yet brooding. Their characters' hectic journey of letting go is funny, poignant, and offbeat as only Anderson can master. At the beginning of The Darjeeling Limited,  I was optimistic to latch onto its mod-hipster train and be taken for a ride. And it became something that I can't wait to be a part of again and again.

Rating: ★★★
Have you seen The Darjeeling Limited? What did you think?

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