The Darjeeling Limited
Rated “R” Running time 91 minutes
By Richard Davis
The Darjeeling Limited is not about tea. Those expecting to see a tea movie will be disappointed. It is the story of three grown brothers: Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman), who board the Darjeeling Limited for a train voyage across India hoping to reconnect with each other after the sudden death of their father. Francis, the imperious oldest brother and ineffective leader, has planned the trip right down to daily laminated itineraries, which include planned mystical awakenings (he has even brought along an assistant) and a visit to their “maternally challenged” mother (played by Angelica Houston) who is now a nun and lives near the Himalayan foothills.
There are no traditional heroes in this film. Each character seems in constant battle with reason. Francis, after surviving a motorcycle accident, believes he has been called upon to unite the three and guide them to spiritual growth (following the Western stereotype concerning India and mysticism). Peter is stressed over his pregnant wife who he had planned to divorce. And Jack, the youngest, is so obsessed with his ex-girlfriend that at train stations along the way, he makes long-distance phone calls to eavesdrop on her answering machine, for which he still has the code. Throughout the film, the three are in a losing battle against self-control and good judgment.
As it turns out, Wilson’s well-intentioned attempts at leadership are no match for the trio’s shared history, warped personalities, and impulsiveness. Their folly leads to a rapid erosion of control until finally chaos reigns — they are kicked off the train and find themselves in the middle of nowhere with eleven designer suitcases, a printer and a laminating machine. Or is it fate? Like all great journeys, theirs becomes one of awakening, but not in the way they had planned.
Wes Andersen (director of RUSHMORE, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou), through his unique style of filmmaking is clearly present in Darjeeling. Like some of his earlier films, the film is accessorized with big names playing small but meaningful roles (Natalie Portman briefly appears as Jack’s girlfriend. Bill Murray’s character, a businessman late for a train, is on screen even less).
Owen Wilson (A Night at the Museum, You, Me, and Dupree, The Wedding Crashers) seems at first out of place as a leader. But his character’s good intentions, doomed idealism and inefficaciousness suit him well.
The youngest Academy award winner for Best Actor, Adrien Brody (The Pianist, King Kong, Hollywoodland) excels as the middle child, realistically exhibiting idiosyncrasies that decry a person who is avoiding the process of mourning and future fatherhood.
Jason Schwartzman (I Heart Hukabees), one of the movie’s co-writers, is convincing as the quiet, lovelorn youngest brother who manages two love scenes in a film that takes place mainly on a train!
The Darjeeling Limited steps gingerly back and forth across the line of believability and the film’s pace is sometimes trying. But scratch the film’s thin veneer of silliness and you’ll discover richer, deeper levels of storytelling that’ll stay on your mind long after you leave the theater.
The Darjeeling Limited