The Darjeeling Limited features Wes Anderson in peak form. It is an amazing film that met my expectations and exceeded them. It has all the trademark “Wes Anderson-isms” (creative use of slow-mo, killer soundtrack, dead pan delivery, family explorations, brilliant and colorful mis-en-scene, etc.) and then some.
The plot of the film follows Adrian Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson as brothers taking a spiritual journey to India a year after their father’s death. Those who criticize Wes Anderson for style over substance are not actually watching. The Darjeeling Limited is perhaps in some ways Wes Anderson’s most openly serious of all his films, but it hits home in all the right places. Each brother is so nuanced and you really understand how the dynamics of family function. When Jason Schwartzman’s character asks his brothers, “I wonder if the three of us would've been friends in real life. Not as brothers, but as people,” there is a genuine sense that family does mean something; it’s more than just blood.
One great thing about the film that surprised me somewhat was its open satire of the “spiritual journey.” Owen Wilson’s character militarily plans out each day and makes his brother agree to “find themselves.” Anderson brilliantly conveys that we cannot make planned epiphanies and that these exotic landscapes are not just places where whites can reconcile their issues; India and it’s people in the film are living breathing entities and these young men cannot absolve themselves so easily.
Did I mention that killer soundtrack? Although there is no Mark Mothersbaugh this time around, Wes Anderson effectively uses music from old Satyajit Ray films as well as a few great classic rock tunes. Most noticeably he uses three tracks from The Kinks. There is a scene about half way through with the song “Strangers” that nearly brought me to tears and is on repeat as we speak. I would believe that Wes Anderson’s use of music in films has no rival; it is of a perfect synthesis with the images and the themes.
I know Wes Anderson had worries about what the effect of putting Hotel Chevalier (the short film featuring Jason Schwartzman’s character and his ex-girlfriend played by Natalie Portman) before would have on how the audience perceives the narrative focus in The Darjeeling Limited, but I’m happy to say that it really just adds a nice flavor and poignancy behind certain scenes and does not detract from anything.
It is hard for me to write a compact review for this after only seeing it once, but my initial opinion is that it is one of Wes Anderson’s finest works and continues to reveal him as one of the greatest filmmakers in the last fifteen years. The reason why The Darjeeling Limited works so well is that in spite of (or because of) our own human failings, amazing things can still happen.
The Darjeeling Limited on IMDB