Friday 11 November 2022

Movie Review: The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

A comedy and drama about coming to terms with family and letting go of the past, The Darjeeling Limited is both airy and obvious.

Three American brothers reunite on the Darjeeling Limited train in India. The trip is organized by oldest brother Francis (Owen Wilson), a micromanaging control freak still bandaged up after a severe motorcycle crash. Peter (Adrien Brody) is a laid back expectant father, but has a tendency to take things that are not his. Jack (Jason Schwartzman) is going through a divorce and looking for sexual thrills.

The brothers lost their father about a year ago, and have not seen their mother since she abandoned the family and became a nun at an Indian village. Francis intends the trip to culminate in a reunion with mom, but little will go as he planned.

Directed by Wes Anderson, The Darjeeling Limited rolls down the tracks with clever joy bordering on knowing smugness. Anderson co-wrote the script with Schwartzman and Roman Coppola, and the antics of the three brothers remain just to the side of authentic. The visual splendor is filled with vivid colors and the sights and smells of a train trip through an exotic land, although this is a vision of India more staged than organic.

Anderson's signature artificiality is intentional, but the foundational narrative supports are shaky. The three brothers are more quirky sketches than real people, and none are particularly likeable. The overarching theme of discarding unnecessary luggage to rediscover familial love through the thicket of annoying personality traits is well-intentioned but far from profound.

Still, the humour is dry and consistent, and the journey is enlivened by unexpected twists, including Jack finding a libidinous partner and the brothers experiencing a tragic-heroic encounter with children near a village. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman are quietly effective at finding all the right individual irritating behaviours while still sneaking in the commonalities of brotherhood. Bill Murray shows up early and Anjelica Huston shows up late to boost the star power.

The Darjeeling Limited is a curated ride, finely crafted but more cerebral than heartfelt.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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