Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman
Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston
True connection cannot be fabricated or meticulously planned out no matter the intentions, because of the organic nature of human emotion. Quality time and understanding truly lead to manifesting these bonds, which these brothers discover in their voyage through India on The Darjeeling Limited. A story told distinctly within the style of its director and aided by a lovely trio of actors.
On a trip to connect with each other for the first time in a while, Francis (Owen Wilson) plans a voyage with his brothers Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman). As they ride through India, the controlling tendencies of Francis begin to peeve the other two, as they attempt to find some meaning in life ever since the death of their father.
Out on the road in extravagant locations, The Darjeeling Limited set a challenge for Wes Anderson to use his style in various locations. With his other features, they took place in confined areas where Anderson could hone in on the details, as he’s famous for, but this film takes these characters to a variety of checkpoints on their way to their destination. At the heart of it all is the hope Francis has to connect with his brothers. The first appearance the siblings have together occurs as Peter runs and catches the train, as he arrived at the station late. He walks into their room and finds a sleeping Jack and then Francis walks in all bandaged up. He explains the near-death experience he had, which prompted this impromptu trip. These three siblings had not seen each other for over a year, which coincided with the death of their father, and now will be in the same train room for a decent amount of days.
Frustrations certainly build, but in the room where they have their conversations and catch up is where Wes Anderson thrives. He breaks down their conversations from having all three of them talking, shifting to Francis talking to Peter, and then Peter switches to Jack after Francis leaves. This carousel of informative discussion outlines what they are willing to say as a collective and what they would prefer to divulge to only one of the brothers. It makes it that much funnier when one gets asked to keep a secret and then reveals the information to the other brother almost immediately. This demonstrates their lack of trust and the amount of work necessary for them to connect in the way Francis would like.
As the brothers ride through India, Francis has planned a detailed itinerary where they can explore something at each stop looking for some meaning. Francis has done extensive research and he believes if they gather together at a mystical landmark or location and perform some ceremony, things may come together relationally. Obviously, it does not work because they fail to address exactly why they have been splintered for so long as brothers, which centers on the baggage they still carry from the death of their father.
With the calculated nature of each frame and shot of Wes Anderson films, he always manages to find the sweet spot of emotional connection for his characters. The one held between Francis, Peter, and Jack works beautifully because of where they start and what it takes for them to realize what it means for them to truly bond. When those moments hit, the love pours right out as a certain pain has been ailing them for some time now.
India serves as the background for the entire story, which does raise concerns of yet another story where white folks go to a foreign country to find some meaning and use the people of this nation as mere props. While this happens in moments in The Darjeeling Limited, the proper balance appears in the complete buffoonery these characters display throughout the first two acts of the film. This forced and inorganic use of India to help them find meaning falls flat on nearly every occasion when they attempt it because it’s not how things work with human emotions. For those two acts, the film mocks them for these strange attempts to use another nation and its people as props, when everything to move them forward remained between them the whole time.
The acting decision to utilize three Wes Anderson regulars in Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman really paid off as they each bring three distinct personalities to the table. Their characters certainly have differences but the actors themselves have a distinct persona as figures in Hollywood, which lends well to the type of people they portray in this film. They each sell the individual struggles they have and their excellence makes it hard to distinguish who put on the greater performance. It speaks to how they all got on the same wavelength and had the capability to utilize what Anderson provided them in the script and flourished with it.
On a second viewing is where The Darjeeling Limited truly clicked with me on an emotional level. The first time watching the film left me forming the opinion of this being Wes Anderson’s weakest movie to date, which I no longer feel, but he really allows these characters to mess up desperately and presents the opportunity for them to be redeemed. Others jump in and out of the story with varying impact, but it all rests on these three brothers, the emotional journey they take on together, and the literal baggage they have to toss aside.