I’ve been told that I need to see this movie for awhile, not only because it is a Wes Anderson film, but because it features India as a very much beloved starring character (for those of you that do not know, I LOOOVE Indian culture). I can usually take or leave Wes Anderson’s films, although I admire his unique style of directing, but I have to say I did enjoy The Darjeeling Limited, more than The Royal Tannenbaums, and slightly less than Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The film actually sets out to tell a fairly straight forward narrative. Three brothers, suffering from various neuroses that may or may not have been caused by their mother, find themselves traveling through India by train in an attempt to reconnect with each other a year after the death of their father. At first this film seems a little too familiar, with Westerners seeking personal enlightenment in the third world, but due to a crafty screenplay this doesn’t happen. We don’t get too many scenes of tourists praying at predetermined destinations recommended in a guide book.
The brothers never react to India as tourists either. They’re clearly not at home, but there is a comfort and familiarity in their actions that suggests they’ve all been through this before. And although brother Frances (Owen Wilson) is adament about keeping to his planned itinerary, the film recognizes what everyone in reality already knows about schedules. They never work. Enlightenment occurs off the beaten track.
When Frances, along with Jack (Jason Schwartzman) and Peter (Adrien Brody), get thrown off the train due to accidental prescription drug induced shenanigans, they find themselves stranded with little else than their belongings packed in their father’s variety of suitcases. It is the chain of events from this point that really starts to change the brothers, how they come to terms with past events, how they relate to each other, and the next steps they want to take in their own lives.
Ultimately, this is a story about seeking understanding and the only way to do that is by letting go completely. Letting go of the past, surrendering preconceived notions of yourself, and even your expectations of others. The Darjeeling Limited combines all these facets and at the end, the audience feels these characters are in a better position then before.
The film meanders slightly, but I feel it provides the perfect allegory to a true life pilgrimage. We always seem to find ourselves in the strangest of places, and under even stranger circumstances. I celebrate any film that understands that.