The Darjeerling Limited (2007) (R)

"The Darjeerling Limited" is as close as we'll ever get to seeing Wes Anderson make a road-trip movie, and it's one that somehow doesn't seem very successful at first glance. The movie has Anderson's signature style plus some; but what makes it annoying is that you have to immerse yourself in the Anderson world surrounding "The Darjeerling Limited" including the short film "Hotel Chevalier" for everything to make sense and for all the jokes to hit the mark.
The first part a comedy that very abruptly morphs into a drama "The Darjeerling Limited" sees one of Anderson's smallest casts giving their most heartfelt performances and in spite of everything that piles up against is, it does work for me.
Set in India, the movie's prologue sees a business man speeding through traffic and a train station, desperately trying to catch his train. As it departs from the station, he runs to hop on, but isn't fast enough...though Peter Whitman (Adrien Brody) is fast enough to catch the train.
The tree Whitman brothers have been summoned together by their oldest brother, Francis (Owen Wilson). Peter, Jack (Jason Schwartzman), and Francis are now on a train The Darjeerling Limited and ready to have a spiritual adventure. Francis, who is recovering from an accident and whose head is severely bandaged up, has an itinerary of things that they must do as the train makes its way across India. It's very clear that the Whitman boys do not get along. It's been over a year since they've seen each other and the only reason then was for their father's funeral. They each have their own quirks: Francis likes to tell people what they want, though he doesn't realize it...he's very passive-aggressive with his speech. Jack doesn't wear shoes and is constantly falling in love with every woman he sees. He writes short stories that he is convinced are original, but are just derived from his life. Peter wears his father's glasses even though the prescription is too strong for him headaches. As a collection of people, the brothers are compulsive spenders and pill-poppers. One scene shows all o them exchanging the questionable pain killers they have, sampling each one like it was a tasting.
Perhaps this is some commentary on how they all want to numb their lives. This makes sense, because even though the over-arcing emotion that the film gives you is happiness, there is more fried than anything else. Death, abandonment, betrayal, insecurity—they are all very cleverly disguised in the plot.
As the three brothers being their spiritual journey, they encounter many different obstacles that keep them from reaching their place of complete tranquility. Anderson is his most emotional here, his most pondering and meditative. In this way, we begin to see Anderson having some journey with his characters, one that gives the movie its deep emotions that resonate with the viewer. When the movie finishes, it finishes quickly, quietly and lovingly...but also very immaturely. It's a very optimistic and brash ending for a work with the complexity that "The Darjeerling Limited" has. But as I mulled over the ending and the work as a whole, I begin to think that Wes Anderson wanted it that way. So for that, I applaud Wes Anderson because he reminds us that our stories could have a fairy tale ending. It may be implausible and unrealistic, but it is comforting.
So for all its wanderings and almost indigestible Wes Anderson antics, "The Darjeerling Limited" remains a film on family and loss. It's very curious to see Anderson's take on this, but it is also very genuine underneath all the style. The mark the film left on me is surprising and I know this is a movie that I will be returning to many times.

Score: ★★★½

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