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The Darjeeling Limited

A comedy movie directed by Wes Anderson

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Could be Anderson's best...funny, yet startlingly touching

  • Dec 24, 2007
  • by
Rating:
+5
If you haven't cared for Wes Anderson movies in the past, THE DARJEELING LIMITED will probably not help you get over that hurdle. In my opinion, his flat-out funniest film is still THE ROYAL TENNANBAUMS...but if you don't like that, it's hard to imagine you would like DARJEELING.

On the other hand, if you're a fan of the quirky, dead-pan, drier than dust humor, coupled with unorthodox camera work (a motionless camera, or a camera that moves side to side but seldom in and out) and fanciful art direction, DARJEELING should be your cup of tea (pun intended).

Three estranged brothers, each carrying a load of psychic baggage, come together on a ramshackle train in India to go our a "journey of spiritual growth." This journey has been arranged by the oldest brother, Owen Wilson. He tells them that he wants them to bond and grow close again. And in a way, this is true...but it also appears he wants them to help each other come to terms with the grief over their father's death (although he may not even realize this is a goal) and he has one other destination in mind that is a big secret (which I'll try not to spoil here.)

Middle brother is Adrien Brody, who is expecting to become a father any day now, but hasn't even bothered to tell his wife that he's going on this trip. His grief over the loss of his father is mostly obviously displayed, because he is wearing this father's glasses, even though the prescription probably isn't right for him.

The youngest brother is Jason Schwartzman, who is grappling with a prolong breakup with his girlfriend (played by Natalie Portman in a little movie called HOTEL CHEVALIER which is now thankfully being played as part of this film's theatrical release. I can't imagine enjoying DARJEELING properly without having seen it). Schwartzman is also a writer, and he has brought with him a handwritten draft of a new short story which obviously has resonance for his brothers.

These three are oddballs, to say the least. They really don't belong in India, and really struggle to get along with each other. They are classic Anderson characters, removed from their emotions, full of verbal and physical quirks and tics, supremely intelligent and hugely sad.

At the beginning of the film, Bill Murray makes a brief cameo appearance. Is there any actor better at being funny with so much sadness working today? In LOST IN TRANSLATION, his character, while witty, was burdened with sadness. In Anderson's much maligned THE LIFE AQUATIC, Murray is nearly crippled with his sadness. Murray has brought this to an art form not really seen since perhaps the time of Chaplin. So his early appearance in DARJEELING almost helps to set that mood of sadness that permeates virtually every moment of the film. But this does not make it oppressive. The beautiful country of India, the colorful settings (the train itself is a marvel of design) and the off-the-wall incidents that occur keep the audience happily engaged.

What I like about Anderson's characters is that they generally do not carry anger. So often in films, characters who are grieving or holding in some other emotion will frequently burst out in anger or violence. It's become an easy cliché. However, Anderson's characters are sad. They tamp down on that sadness, and when it does bubble up, it's seldom a physical explosion, but more of a collapse. They are touchingly simple moments, usually. Because the characters have spent most of the movie squashing their feelings, when they DO come up, it is all the more effective for the viewer. There are moments in DARJEELING of simple, touching sadness...and they are very effective.

So yes, this is not a happy movie. I think in many ways, people are turned off by the films because they are expecting a quirky but harmless comedy. However, in ROYAL TENNANBAUMS, Ben Stiller has a scene of such startling sadness and pain that it is almost too much for the viewer. In LIFE ACQUATIC, Murray's character suffers a very painful loss near the end of the film, taking the viewer into an area that they probably didn't want to go. And DARJEELING has a couple of moments that are totally unexpected, including a scene when the brothers are kicked off the train for bad behavior and wander into a rural village just in time to plunge into some earth-shattering events. I know some viewers and some critics find the change in tone shocking and unwelcome. For me, it was a powerful moment...and a poignant one. Also, a vivid reminder that just because a movie (or life) appears to be going in one direction...don't be surprised if it takes a different turn.

All three leads are terrific. It's particularly nice to see Wilson back in form...reminding us that he is capable of something other than the complete goofball he can play in his sleep. Angelica Huston has a small, but critical role and she is very good too.

Also, I have to mention the terrific soundtrack. The three obscure songs from The Kinks are highlights for me, and turned the album into a must have! I never dreamed that "Powerman" would ever be used in a film...but it's brilliant.

As I wrote this review, I realized that I was going to have to see the movie again this weekend. I can't wait for the DVD release. To me, it was that good. But again, if you don't like Anderson films, you probably won't like this one either (although, I can keep my fingers crossed that you may try anyway...and end up impressed.)

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More The Darjeeling Limited (2007 m... reviews
review by . August 12, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
**** out of ****     I first watched Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited" about two-to-three years ago. It was my first film in terms of the writer-director-auteur, and it wasn't exactly a warm welcome to his wonderful world. I found it dry, sporadically funny and sometimes amusing, but nonetheless hollow at its core. It was lacking in both sincerity and depth for me. Then I saw "Rushmore", "The Royal Tenenbaums", "Bottle Rocket", "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou", and …
review by . March 23, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
Aboard the Darjeeling Limited it's a Funny and Enjoyable Ride
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman star as brothers on a journey to the Himalayas to find their mother who left the family to become a nun. Most of their travels are on the train named the Darjeeling Limited. Wilson’s character, Francis, tries to be the leader of the bunch which doesn’t always go over well. Brody’s character, Peter, has a wife who is pregnant  (7 and a half months along) and she doesn’t know he on this trip. …
review by . March 03, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
`The Darjeeling Limited,' should be evaluated by how much mirth and wisdom it provides. The film comes across like a train wreck, giving us a fresh take on the familiar culture clash between East and West. While watching this film, I kept thinking of The Beatles and their films. One reason is that the three brothers presented run (madcap) through the titled Indian train; the other is that they journey through the heart of India searching for wisdom.     At the start of the movie …
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Ranked #147
I've got my own site, www.afilmcritic.com, on which I'm posting my reviews. I am 46 years old, married 25 years, two kids (23 & 18) and currently work in accounting/finance. I spent 15 years … more
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The Darjeeling Limited is a 2007 American comedy film directed by Wes Anderson, and starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman. It was written by Anderson, Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola. The film also stars Waris Ahluwalia, Amara Karan, Barbet Schroeder, and Anjelica Huston, with Natalie Portman, Camilla Rutherford, Irrfan Khan and Bill Murray in cameo roles.
 
The protagonists are three American brothers: Francis, Peter, and Jack Whitman, who haven't seen each other for a year, since their father's funeral. The film begins as they meet each other in a train that travels through India, which is named The Darjeeling Limited.
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