“The Darjeeling Limited” – 2007 New York Film Festival Review

Three brothers
+ one train in an exotic locale
+ some fancy luggage
= a quirky new film directed by Wes Anderson called “The Darjeeling Limited.”

This latest Anderson film, which opened the 2007 New York Film Festival, is definitely better than “The Life of Steve Zissou” but not at the caliber of “Rushmore” or “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

There is nothing relatively new in this movie, which includes the familiar themes of family, bits of comedic moments, and fixed settings (school, house, boat) as well as the vivid use of color. Owen Wilson (as Francis Whitman, the oldest bossy brother), Adrien Brody (Peter, the middle brother) and Jason Schwartzman (Jack, the youngest brother) play three semi-estranged brothers who travel through India by train, embarking on a spiritual journey and trying to recapture their bond. The Whitman brothers are also still coming to terms of their father’s death, evidenced by the luggage they carry which bears his initials J.L.W.

Watching the sibling rivalry and the secrets they each harbor should have been convincing enough to believe that the three lead actors were actually brothers. You come close to feeling sorry for them as they try to resolve their differences on the train and seek out their mother, who had abandoned the family to become a nun (played in a cameo by Anjelica Huston). As hard as it is to see past these shallow characters, Anderson makes an attempt at bringing some warmth to the surface. He does this towards the end of the movie when tragedy strikes as the brothers try to rescue three Indian boys drowning in the river. Sadly, one of the boys does not make it and you see a father bury his son in a remote Indian village. But this sequence of events does not work; the three brothers still remain superficial, barely scratching the surface of humanity. The movie by far is not perfect but you still get some laughs and see what it is like traveling through India on a train.

Anderson also made a related short film titled “Hotel Chevalier,” which stars Schwartzman and Natalie Portman as former lovers reunited in a Paris hotel room drenched in a rich golden yellow color reminiscent of Indian curry. Playing midway through the short are strains of Peter Sarstedt’s hit, “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” in the background. With those elements filling the senses, the short acts as a puzzle piece – or more like a prequel of sorts – in “The Darjeeling Limited.” Unfortunately, the short did not make it to the theatres as part of the movie’s release, instead heading straight to DVD as an afterthought. By not showing the short prior to the feature, the viewers would miss out on the subtle details that answer some questions in the movie.