The Darjeeling Limited is the latest irreverent family/self discovery movie by Wes Anderson. You may remember he’s the creative force behind other offbeat movies likeThe Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Sticking with his modis operandi, Anderson picks another unusual place to host his vision – a passenger train traveling across India. The purpose of the trip is to reunite dysfunctional brothers Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman).
Once upon the train, it is quickly apparent why the family has splintered in the fashion that it did. Francis is a self proclaimed “daddy” – making decisions for the everyone and having a admonishing opinion on everything. Peter is a transparent narcissist – so much so that he contemplates dumping his girlfriend because she is pregnant. Jack is the flighty brother – the guy who lives for the moment and one who would disperse into the wind if something he doesn’t like were to happen to him. And as one would expect, due to the tiny cabin and forced constant close proximity to one another, instead of relationships getting better, they crumble further. So much so that as the brothers get increasingly obtuse they’re thrown off the train to fend for themselves.
And in typical Anderson fashion, there is a moment (or moments) when the characters at hand manage to put their differences aside. In this case it is during the saving of two boys and the death of one boy from drowning and the ensuing funeral. The brothers come to the conclusion that life is too short and not only should they make amends with one another, they should complete the passage they have started and reach out to their estranged mother.
Unfortunately, unlike his other works, I didn’t particularly like this grouping of eccentrics. Owens tries to make his character his typical soft-spoken, off-key guy but comes off as a stuffy asshole. It’s also difficult as hell to see him with head bandages when prior to the movie’s release he tried to commit suicide. The self-consumed role Brody tackles is equally annoying. It’s hard to feel for a guy who can’t face life changing certainty. Even after his cathartic moment, I didn’t see much in the way of an attitude change. As for Schwartzman’s role, there’s not much to say about it. Aside from a quick fling, he adds nothing of particular value to The Darjeeling Limited.
On the flip side, I did find the role of the mother, Patricia (Anjelica Huston) interesting. For the short period of time she’s on film, I found her oddly entrancing. She’s not the powerful persona I’m used to seeing Huston play (or perhaps expect to see her play is more appropriate). Instead she is a cowardly woman, running from her problems and wholly consumed with her own well being. Yet even though she hasn’t seen her children in years, she acts as if there is nothing to clear the air about. It’s clear where her boys got their attitudes from!
So the long story short for The Darjeeling Limited is this: It’s not nearly as endearing or as fun as the aforementioned films. Somewhere along the line, Anderson forgot that his lead characters need some sort of likable quality, whether it be a quirk or other charming oddity. Aside from the breathtaking scenery of India and the ten minutes of screen time allotted to Huston, there isn’t much else worthy of a view or a memory.