Darjeeling Limited, The (USA; 91 min.)

directed by: Wes Anderson
starring: Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Angelica Huston, Bill Murray, Amara Karan, Waris Ahluwalia
The Darjeeling Limited

Bruce says: "Characters in a Wes Anderson film are often smug, have an oversized sense of entitlement and lack empathy. That description fits most of the characters in THE DARJEELING LIMITED. One year after their father died, three brothers - potentially suicidal Francis (Owen Wilson), drug aficionado Peter (Adrien Brody) and sex-addicted Jack (Jason Schwartzman) - are in India traveling together to an unknown destination on The Darjeeling Limited. They have not seen one another since the funeral as they don’t particularly get along. Lots of bickering and demonstrations of one-upsmanship mar the adventure. The three travel with a set of eleven matching, monogrammed Louis Vuitton bags which belonged to their father. They argue about who was their father’s favorite. My guess is that their father probably didn’t like any one of them very much. There is an occasional funny moment during their odyssey but most attempts at humor fall flat.

"Francis has organized the trip, a supposed 'spiritual journey.' His brothers accuse him of using a fascist approach. Francis’ personal secretary is also on The Darjeeling Limited. He plans the daily itinerary and slips it under the train compartment doors. Under duress Francis’ Man Friday slips up and reveals their true destination. The brothers are not on a spiritual journey but are en route to the monastery where their mother has become a nun.

"To Anderson’s credit he handles an abrupt change of pace in the film as beautifully as one could imagine. Amid the goofiness and the fraternal sparring, the brothers happen upon a group of children imperiled in a raging stream. The brothers without a second’s hesitation drop their luggage and leap into the swirling waters. This manic moment grounds the film, at least for the time being. Surprisingly, a second abrupt change of pace, a flashback to the day of their father’s funeral, comes up dull and ineffective.

"The closer the bothers get to the monastery, the greater the suspense. The scene with their mother (Angelica Huston) is one of the greatest cinematic letdowns imaginable. It is easily the most boring moment in the film. The scene that could have galvanized the film and given it a much needed shape merely lets the film float away into meaninglessness.

"Because this is a comedy, Anderson affords us a whimsical side of India that Western films rarely, if ever, capture. A fabulous surrealistic scene near the end of the film pulls all the pieces together. That should be the end; instead, Anderson labors on. This reinforces my opinion that Anderson is a great scene maker, but a less effective filmmaker. Adrian Brody and Jason Schwartzman are both sensational in their parts. Owen Wilson, adequate at his best, at times is just plain awful. Bill Murray is a bookend character - in scenes at the beginning and at the end of the film - and curiously has nothing to do with the story. Amara Karan and Waris Ahluwalia are both effective as members of the train’s staff. 3 cats

"At the New York Film Festival THE DARJEELING LIMITED was preceded by a short film called HOTEL CHEVALIER (4 cats) starring Jason Schwartzman as Jack and Natalie Portman as Jack’s ex-girlfriend. It takes place in a Paris hotel where, for months, Jack has been living incognito. She inexplicably tracks him down and they have one last night of passion. In spite of little happening in the short film, seeing it first is great for positioning the character of Jack in the viewer’s mind. It also has a focus that the longer film lacks. HOTEL CHEVALIER is not being shown as part of the theatrical release but will be available on the DVD.

"THE DARJEELING LIMITED opened the 2007 New York Film Festival."

`Chris says: "Wes Anderson's latest follows three brothers as they travel across India on a tripped-out train that gives the film its title. The Whitmans, Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman), haven't seen or spoken much to each other since their father's death one year ago; it's immediately apparent why they're estranged. Francis is controlling ringleader of the trio, crafting daily, hyper-detailed itineraries for his brothers (and even ordering food for them on occasion); Peter is a compulsive hoarder and borrower, claiming his father's artifacts for himself (much to Francis' chagrin); and sex-obsessed Jack just seems to be on his own planet much of the time. Naturally, the brothers' effort to reconcile, bond and achieve some sort of spiritual enlightenment doesn't go as Francis planned.

More than anything in Anderson's oeuvre, this film feels transitional. It incorporates many of the themes and stylistic traits he's used since BOTTLE ROCKET: the breakdown and patching up of familial relations, the intricate attention-to-detail (a train's contours prove a natural fit for this), whimsical sequences that add more to the emotional pull than the narrative. On the other hand, it also suggests Anderson is open to expanding his repertoire, if just a tiny bit. Instead of the usual Mark Mothersbaugh score, he supplements the classic rock soundtrack with music from Satyajit Ray's films. Also, when a truly tragic event occurs midway through, he gets the sparse, mournful tone exactly right with a depth of feeling that may surprise some of his critics.

His head half-covered in bandages, Wilson plays a role that seems tailor-made for him (and a bit unnerving, given his recent suicide attempt), as does Schwartzman (who co-wrote the screenplay with Anderson and Roman Coppola). However, Brody gives the revelatory performance here, so completely at ease as he lends complexity to both the film's humorous and sobering moments. The worst one can say about Anjelica Huston's brief, anticipated appearance toward the end is that she looks unexpectedly awful, although her presence still shines through enough to carry her scenes.

On my first viewing, I had some trouble with the film's shambling final third (and in particular, the clumsy, unnecessary extended flashback to the father's funeral). After a second time, I warmed up to most of it, finding it to be a charming (if shaggy) travelogue with a clever payoff that revisits most of the supporting cast. As a huge Anderson admirer, I'm sorry to say THE DARJEELING LIMITED as a whole lacks that empathetic resolve his previous films all had; changed they might be, at the end the Whitmans are barely less self-absorbed than they were before. Fortunately, the film also carries the promise of a mature, career-defining work lurking somewhere within—like the Whitmans, Anderson just needs to shed some of his baggage. 4 cats"