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A year after the accidental death of their father, three brothers -- each suffering from depression - meet for a train trip across India. Francis, the eldest, has organized it. The brothers argue, sulk, resent each other, and fight. The youngest, Jack, estranged from his girlfriend, is attracted to one of the train's attendants. Peter has left his pregnant wife at home, and he buys a venomous snake. After a few days, Francis discloses their surprising and disconcerting destination. Amid foreign surroundings, can the brothers sort out their differences? A funeral, a meditation, a hilltop ritual, and the Bengal Lancer figure in the reconciliation. Written by
The Darjeeling Limited is unlike the average comedy. While not being truly laugh out loud funny, the film is clever, well written, with memorable characters and one liners that grow wittier over time. The only type of movie it can be compared to are other films by Wes Anderson, the director of Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and the love it or hate film, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. All of his movies are extremely stylized, with slow motion sequences, wide lenses that slightly distort the frame, and privileged, depressed characters with family issues all thrown together in a slightly artificial, timeless, carefully detailed environment. While with The Life Aquatic he may have tried to do too much, The Darjeeling Limited shows Anderson finally perfected his style. He knows when to throw inside jokes to his most loyal of fans, while keeping his stories fresh and personal, without acknowledging the critics who blame Anderson for repeating himself.
The film is absolutely engaging from the very start with a hilarious, memorable cameo by Bill Murray, trying to catch the Darjeeling Limited train in slow motion, yet is outrun by Adrien Brody's Peter to the tune of The Kinks' This Time Tomorrow, one of the three Kinks songs in the film (all are accompanied by slow motion sequences). Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson play the three Whitman brothers, Peter, Jack, and Francis. Wilson's character has organized a spiritual journey through India with his brothers who have not spoken to one other since their father's funeral a year ago. Performance-wise, the standout is Wilson, in what might be his best role yet. Owen Wilson seems to play himself in all of his other movies, with Wes Anderson being the only writer/director to truly know how to use his talents. The characters begin to realize that one cannot force a spiritual journey, no matter how many temples visited and organized rituals performed for brotherly bonding as printed on a laminated itinerary. The bender that results is a ridiculously entertaining blend of comedy and drama successfully aided by Anderson's great choice of music and colorful, dynamic cinematography.
Extremely recommended viewing (other than Anderson's previous efforts) before watching this amazing film is Hotel Chevalier, a 13 minute short film directed by Anderson and starring Jason Schwartzman, available for free download online through Itunes. In the film, Schwartzman plays the same character that he plays in The Darjeeling Limited. Also starring is Natalie Portman as Jack's ex-girlfriend, who makes a brief cameo in the feature film as well. The short film helps establish Schwartzman's character, and provides clues on certain details of The Darjeeling Limited. Also, a couple of funny moments in the feature wouldn't make much sense without seeing the short. The emotional, yet blissful experience that is The Darjeeling Limited is Wes Anderson's best film thus far, defeating Rushmore for that top spot.
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