The Darjeeling Limited, directed by Wes Anderson and written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman (2007).
The Darjeeling Limited tells the story of three selfish, entitled and shallow brothers who decide to go to India in a self-discovery and bonding journey. It’s been a year since his father’s death and Francis (Owen Wilson) wants to get closer to Peter (Adrien Brody), who is about to be a father, and Jack (Jason Schwartzman), who has an abusive relationship with his ex-girlfriend and writes short stories.
The Darjeeling Limited is visually astounding. It’s colourful and charming and surprisingly cramped. It’s not the only love letter from a Westerner to that mesmerizing country but you can tell it’s an honest one. The scenes in the train were actually filmed on a moving train, which I guess contributes to the cramped and shaky feeling, but I’m left wondering if it was at all necessary. The acting is correct but nobody particularly stands out as intense or funny.
Story-wise, I had a bit of a hard time getting immersed in the movie because I was expecting something more like The Grand Budapest Hotel and this is quite different. It has a subtle sense of humour, but of a different kind. I don’t know if someone found the three brothers likable, but I also had a short lapse of awkwardness at the beginning of the movie until I figured I was watching a movie about three jerks. These guys just wander around praying to gods they just met for reasons they don’t understand and then buy things they don’t need or know how to take care of to compensate. They’re obnoxious to everyone on the train and to each other but at the same time they feel so smart and enlightened because they are on a spiritual journey. As the movie goes by you can tell they’re trying hard, but I’m not very optimistic that they actually manage to grow up as people. Something I like about the movie is that all these things are open to interpretation.
This movie is visually beautiful, entertaining and tells a fun little story about people who would like to look as better human beings than they actually care to be. Worth a watch.
I don’t know how the writers feel about the characters, but I wasn’t convinced for a second that the Whitmans were redeemed by the little kid’s death. You can tell that they regret not having attended their father’s funeral and try to make up for it by behaving like human beings at the child’s funeral. But before and after you can tell it’s all a game to them. Peter remarks “I didn’t save mine!” as if the accident involving the three children was some sort of scripted event where they get to be heroes. They happily let go of their earthly possessions, such as the shoes and later on the luggage, but not because they have learned to renounce them, but because they have become inconvenient and it’s easier to just buy new things back home, which they can afford.
Note how Francis gives and takes back the belt from Peter repeatedly. All the songs that Jack plays on his iPod focus on how wealthy, glamorous and fashionable the singer’s love interest is. If Peter had actually leaned anything from the journey, he would go back to his pregnant wife immediately, or at least figure out if she needs him or she’s okay being left alone at home. Their decision to stay in India and meet their mother is as careless as their decision to leave in the first place, mostly out of frustration and whim. Nothing has really changed after the child’s death.
Seeing the mother’s behaviour explains a lot of things about their personalities and upbringing. Though by the end of the journey they are none the wiser or more considerate, there is something they have succeeded at: bonding as brothers. Even if that just means realizing they are all as frivolous and self-centred.