Featuring an amazingly talented cast including Owen Wilson, Academy Award winner Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman as estranged brothers who plan a trip through India to rediscover their familial bond a year after their father’s death. A comedic series of unexpected twists and turns involving over-the-counter painkillers, Indian cough syrup and one poisonous snake leave them stranded in uncharted territory. The Darjeeling Limited beautifully encompasses the gift of brotherly love discovered during an unexpected “spiritual” journey.
Over the span of his career director Wes Anderson has essentially created a product out of his work. Ever since Rushmore, his films contain a series of similar themes, plots and characters that have amounted into a style that viewers can come to expect when entering the theater to watch his latest release. This expectation is both a good and a bad thing. Indeed, Anderson’s films are unique and distinguishable from most other Hollywood releases. However, his own catalogue of work is becoming repetitive and leaving a bit to be desired. The question arises: Can Anderson go beyond his palette and create something different?
The Darjeeling Limited isn’t the film where Anderson breaks out of his mold but it’s a start. Revolving around three brothers attempting to find themselves while on a spiritually, bonding adventure through India via train, Darjeeling employs many of the same elements of his previous work. Each shot is precisely crafted so that every nuance of the mise-en-scene creates a symmetry of color and design that is truly Anderson. The characters develop around the complex dynamics of family as seen in his previous films. As usual, there is flawlessly delivered dead-pan comedy and perfectly placed moments of awkward silence. Once again, a soundtrack that would please any aging hipster plays throughout. Many of the same actors also appear. Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman are back along with a brief but powerful performance by Angelica Huston. Even Bill Murray and the eccentric Pagoda appear in a few scenes although without lines. Thus, for a most of its entirety Darjeeling proves to be another film full of that which we have come to expect from an Anderson release.
However where The Darjeeling Limited shines most is in the brief moments where Anderson goes beyond his comfort zone and into new territory. Never one to shy away from the dramatic, Darjeeling sees Anderson exploring this component to a deeper extent. Parts of Darjeeling completely turn away from the comedy to focus on the emotional baggage that develops from being a member of a dysfunctional family. Taking its time, the film explores themes of abandonment and death to produce potent scenes that intensify the interactions of the characters. One of the film’s high points involves a flashback involving the three brothers on the way to their father’s funeral. The emotional anguish expressed through Adrien Brody performance is reason enough to see the film.
Darjeeling is also slow and methodical in developing each piece of the story. Extended scenes of the brothers partaking in menial tasks allow the actors to better expand and develop through simple interactions. This surprisingly results in some compelling and often hilarious moments that are a few of the best seen in Anderson’s work.
While well-constructed, Darjeeling is not flawless. Owen Wilson character is almost indistinguishable from his work in previous Anderson films especially that of Bottle Rocket. In addition, cliche and elementary symbolism arises throughout that comes off heavy-handed; weakening the film’s overall effect.
While somewhat predictable and typically Anderson, The Darjeeling Limited still proves to be extremely enjoyable and a film worth watching. Nevertheless, by the time the credits role, one can’t help but still want just a little bit more from Anderson. Until then The Darjeeling Limited is another fine work to add to Anderson’s successful catalog; even if the gimmick is beginning to get a bit tiring.
Note: Make sure to check out the short Hotel Chevalier included on the DVD. Starring Natalie Portman, the short film experienced only a limited released in theaters.
Review by Saxon Baird
Official site: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/thedarjeelinglimited/
Buy on Amazon: The Darjeeling Limited