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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
Anderson hits it big with offbeat, quietly affecting effort
Given the trademark quirkiness yet insight into many profound truths of human behaviour one would expect from director Wes Anderson, it should come as no surprise that his latest film, The Darjeeling Limited, demonstrates the majority of these traits with particular flair and distinction, arguably Anderson's strongest work to date.
The typically disjointed plot details three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) who, in an attempt to bridge the gap between them, embark on a "spiritual journey" across India by train. Of course, considering Anderson's tendency towards offbeat comedic situations, and a series of problems involving Indian cough syrup, a poisonous cobra and pepper spray, the journey does not, of course, go as planned, and the brothers are forced to cope with their increasingly difficult situation and each other in turn.
Do not mistake the film for the conventional road trip buddy comedy it may appear to be - Anderson is far too eclectic and clever to subscribe to such traditional fare, and his film is instead a far more emotional effort. With a particular knack for intricate character and storyline development, Anderson's script carefully doles out tidbits of character history throughout, painting a gradual and remarkably detailed portrait of the central characters as the film progresses. Though the film may drag or feel as if it falls slightly short of its true potential at times, on the whole it is far to easy to be swept up by the film to dwell on such minor concerns.
The gorgeous Indian scenery is captured with particular affection by Anderson's jarring cinematography and sharp eye for intriguing colour schemes. The film's wonderfully fitting soundtrack perfectly compliments the sublime visuals, making for one of the most aesthetically pleasing films in recent memory.
The central three actors are the real draw of the film, and all three boast excellent chemistry throughout. Owen Wilson, as usual, is effortlessly funny as spiritually obsessive control freak Francis, but also brings a tragic undercurrent to his character, made more poignant due to recent real life events out of character. A superb Adrien Brody steals the show as the emotionally unstable soon to be father Pete, demonstrating both previously unseen comedic abilities, and genuinely affecting emotional clout. As bitter writer Jack, Jason Schwartzman proves proficient at raising many a laugh, but despite his strong performance is easily overshone by his two co-stars during the film's dramatic moments. Watch also for amusing cameos from Bill Murray and Natalie Portman (featured more significantly in the film's 13 minute prequel found online at www.hotelchevalier.com), and a somewhat forced supporting role from Angelica Huston near the end.
Like the rest of Anderson's other work, audiences will likely either love it or hate it. This is not a typical belly laugh evoking comedy à-la-Superbad - the humour present is more sly and chuckle worthy, and prides itself more on precisely crafted characters and situations than sight gags and one liners. Those willing to appreciate the film for what it is will enjoy an intelligent and touching spiritual meditation on family, and life in general. The joy is in the journey, and a journey as quirky and sentimental as this is one easily worth taking - for those willing to put forth the effort to overcome mainstream expectations, the film will not disappoint.
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