The Darjeeling Limited is a quirky and strangely satisfying movie by Wes Anderson. I love Anderson’s movies mainly because of his original storylines, characters, and his brilliant use of color and design, which is a feast for the eyes. If perhaps the Darjeeling Limited is a more “underground” movie in comparison to his other masterpieces, such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, it does not fail to be a complete, coherent narrative filled with poignant scenes and subtle emotions, which are played to perfection by the three main actors.
Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman play the older, middle and younger of three brothers (respectively) who go on a trip to India in order to reconnect with each other and embark on a spiritual journey. Things soon turn haywire and the sibblings tread off the beaten path, and yet the audience gets the feeling that the destination they arrive at has the ring of destiny behind it. It’s where they were meant to be all along.
The movie is fundamentally about the sibbling’s relationship with each other and their relationship to their family. They are slightly dysfunctional, but united based on an unspoken understanding, like most sibbling relationships. The dialogue is quick and funny, but not in a laugh out loud way, but in a subtle, intelligent way. Sometimes, though, it’s not so intelligent but more of a brutal type of funny, or even a silly type of funny, which also works.
The three main actors did an amazing job. Owen Wilson as the bossy, authoritarian older sibbling is the focus of attention, while Adrien Brody is the misunderstood middle brother, and Jason Schwartzman kills it as the spoiled younger brother, in a performance favorite for me. India serves as the background for these character arcs, which as a setting contrasts with the character’s evident affluence. However, these are not stuck-up snobs, but characters who are more than willing to integrate themselves with the community. The viewer gets the feeling that wealth isn’t even a subject that is on their mind… And they prove it is not for most of the movie.
As for the chemistry between the actors… the sibbling relationship was believable in the sense that the tension was palpable at times, as well as the way they united and stood up for each other at other times. It felt real.
As the movie unravels, we get to see the background story of these characters, and by the end of it everything falls neatly into place, including a meeting with their estranged and sort of enlightened mother. The colors, cinematography and film design are striking as ever. It feels like one is reading a colorful book at times, or seeing a neatly, brilliantly designed play. Anderson’s eye for design never fails to inspire and awe me.
I would like to point out both the beginning and the ending of the movie. The beginning is funny, using Bill Murray as the focus of attention for the audience for close to 5 minutes as introduction to the movie, only to hastily discard him in favor of one of the actual main characters… tossing away the emotional connection that was forged during that introduction like it didn’t even matter (and in the grand narrative of the story, it doesn’t). Bill Murray does not appear again until the end. I liked how they used him, made the viewers care for his situation, and then bid him goodbye for the rest of the narrative. An odd choice, but it worked.
Towards the end, a series of shots involving the people in the character’s lives are shown to the audience, as well as an abstract and surreal shot of an escaped man-eating tiger. One gets the sense that life is a mixture of both hope and also peril… of dissappointments and successes, and that nobody is safe really, but that it’s all part of the ride.