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Movie Review: The Darjeeling Limited

The Darjeeling Limited
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schwartzman
Fox Searchlight

I really like Wes Anderson, but it appears his quirky films are beginning to emphasize quirk over plot nowadays, which would be acceptable if it could make me forget such important things and just make me laugh for 90 minutes.  His last film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, was a tremendous misfire from his early days of Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and the film that crept precipitously towards the downslide he is currently experiencing, The Royal Tenenbaums.

The trademark Anderson characters are here in The Darjeeling Limited, in which brothers Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody), and Jack (co-writer Schwartzman) get on the titular train in India towards some goal only Francis knows.  Francis says he wants everybody to get along, be brothers for once, as the three have obviously gone separate ways for some time.  On the trip, they make stops and see religous icons, meet new people, and try to learn to trust each other, which is hard.

Francis is a passive control freak, laying out itineraries and ordering food for his brothers, Peter is a kleptomaniac of sorts, mostly of family items, especially of their recently deceased father, and Jack is a writer, always looking for the next place to go and new people to meet.  He does, in fact, begin a fleeting relationship with the resident Darjeeling hottie, Rita (Amara Karan).  But the secrets between each other, especially the reason Francis wants to go on this trip, always threaten their ability to bond.

It’s a road movie on a train, and with these characters it would seem like a good plot with comic gold could be spun around them.  But we only get moments, and lots of plot threads that just end, and an out-of-nowhere third act that’s supposed to be the basis for the brothers finally bonding, but it’s jarring. 

When I look at Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, there is a purpose to all of this and the lovable character flaws serve to advance an entertaining plot.  These guys are chasing dead ends for the entire movie, and it’s unfulfilling to watch.  Anderson can’t survive on the mood of his films alone, which is what The Darjeeling Limited tries to do.  In the middle of all this is a sweet story of brothers trying to get along, and this is the heart of the film, but they never quite mesh realistically.  I’ll still look forward to Anderson’s films, but this is his second straight that leaves me in the cold. 

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