Saturday, 19 September 2020
The Darjeeling Ltd.
Written by Sandra Fitzpatrick   
Monday, 29 October 2007 00:00
Writer/director Wes Anderson has an impeccable track record when it comes to quirky, off-the-wall films that leave a lasting impression. His first attempt at wearing both hats led to the underground hit Bottle Rocket, the film that also launched brothers Owen and Luc Wilson into the public eye. It was followed by the Bill Murray comeback vehicle Rushmore, and then by one of my personal favorites The Royal Tenenbaums.

Tenenbaums is a film I’ve watched over and over, and I always come away with something new. Anderson’s eye for detail is impeccable, as is his ability to make me laugh with dryly delivered, dark comedy. I’m not sure if this is the case, but he seems to be heavily inspired both verbally and visually by great American cartoonist Edward Gorey. If you’re not familiar with Gorey’s work but like your humor a little on the macabre side, I’d suggest looking him up.

With The Darjeeling Ltd. Anderson delves into the jammed gears of yet another dysfunctional family. Francis (Owen Wilson) has had a near death experience that was quite possibly intentional. Now, bandaged and patched, he wants to embrace life by going on a spiritual journey with his brothers. The three men haven’t spoken to each other in over a year, having each indulged in their own personal sorrows. Peter (Adrian Brody) grudgingly admits that he loves his wife but wants to leave her because he is terrified of becoming a father. Jack (Jason Schwartzman) is a romantic who just can’t seem to get over his ex-girlfriend.

The three meet up in India, which seems as good a place as any for spiritual awakening, especially when enhanced by over-the-counter mystery pharmaceuticals. They share a compartment on a train called The Darjeeling Ltd. that provides an amazing backdrop for the film. Much like the Team Zizou submarine Anderson featured in The Life Aquatic, this train becomes a central character in this film and we get to know its ins and outs. From the crowded dining car, to the claustrophobic sleeping car and narrow halls, the construction and utilization of this set is fantastic.

The brothers are exceptionally well cast, believably pushing each other around and falling into the patterns of their childhood. I use the term “believable” loosely since everyone in Anderson’s films is so exentric that believablility is hardly a factor. Each of the actors does great things and has his moments to shine. Owen Wilson does what he does better than anybody and his character Francis is passionate, pushy and easily bruised. He’s a character that might be disliked if played by someone less likeable. Adrian Brody brings his somber expression and lanky, greyhound body into play. His gracefulness really comes through in all the slow motion scenes. Jason Schwartzman is perhaps the most memorable, essentially a good guy who tries his hardest to ignore his broken heart by being a jerk.

The portrayal of India is lovely but not touristy. It shows the countryside, and small villages in a way that isn’t romanticized but is very respectful. We also see how commercial many of the places of worship may have become due to so called spiritual tourists.

The Darjeeling Ltd. isn’t a film for everyone. It doesn’t have a set direction or goal and wanders from scene to scene a little awkwardly. But that is exactly what the characters in the film are doing as well, so really we are just along for the ride. I give it 6 out of 10 stars.