The Darjeeling Limited (Fox Searchlight Pictures, R)

darjeeling2.jpg The script by Anderson, Schwartzman and Coppola is touching and heartfelt. The three brothers are each loaded with their own issues and motivations, allowing the actors plenty of room to play.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wes Anderson’s long-awaited new film, The Darjeeling Limited, distills the writer-director’s talent and vision in this sweet and engaging story about three brothers who are all searching for something in an exotic foreign land. Co-written with Jason Schwartzman, who plays one of the brothers named Jack, and Roman Coppola, Anderson returns to his eccentric characters like those in Rushmore and the theme of family and honesty that he explored in The Royal Tenenbaums.

The film is about the Whitman brothers, Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Schwartzman), who set out on a spiritual journey to reconnect as family. Spurred on by Francis, the oldest and surrogate mother hen, the three men travel through India looking for enlightenment and knowledge while attempting to stick to a strict itinerary that is updated daily by Francis’ assistant Brendan (Wallace Wolodarsky). The brothers have not spoken in over a year, the last time being at their father’s funeral. We only get hints at what has happened to each in the interim, but what is important is not what’s behind them but what lies ahead.

Anderson also wrote and directed the short film Hotel Chevalier which touches on how Jack has been spending his time for the last year. The Darjeeling Limited could be seen as just a collection of short films, and Chevalier fits right in. What is truly ingenious and fascinating about these films is their overall simplicity. They are not meant to be epic journeys or deep, metaphorical allegories. They are about people trying to connect with other people, even if it is only for a brief time.

The script by Anderson, Schwartzman and Coppola is touching and heartfelt. The three brothers are each loaded with their own issues and motivations, allowing the actors plenty of room to play. Wilson is wonderful as the eldest brother who is trying with all his might to bring the three of them closer together. Brody is quirky and hilarious as Peter, the brother who has the hardest time letting go of his father and who faces the inevitable future that is racing toward him. As always, Schwartzman is terrific and imbues Jack with qualities without which he would have been despicable or pathetic. Jack is desperate to have someone close to him and ends up trying to sleep with every woman he can.

With the help of his longtime cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman, Anderson brings the audience back into the surreal world of his characters where everything looks almost normal, but not quite. We also get several shots that reflect Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation where vantage point and proximity are crucial. Hm. Francis? Coppola? Interesting connections.

Anderson again intentionally makes some sets look fake, a device for which he is famous, and others authentic, heightening the surrealism of his films. The other characters that inhabit the world are also just as fun to watch. The brothers meet and interact with a variety of Indian customs and traditions, making their journey that much more interesting and challenging.

is an adventure unlike any other. The story and characters are unique and the journey the three brothers take will connect with everyone in the audience on some level or another. | Matthew F. Newlin

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