Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Amara Karan, Wallace Wolodarsky, Waris Ahluwalia, Irrfan Kahn, Anjelica Houston… (and a Bill Murray cameo)
Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Released: October 26, 2007 (U.S.)
Overall score: 7/10
Brody performance: 8.5/10
Disclaimer, of sorts:
I am rating this a seven of ten, objectively, like a “real” film critic would. However, this is one of my favorite movies, so if it was based strictly on my enjoyment as a fan, it would be about a nine.
Also, I have a lot to say about this one. My apologies.
A word of thanks: The screen captures used in this article (save for the photo in the header) are from KissThemGoodbye.net. Thank you for your beautiful images (and for saving me a lot of time and work).
The Darjeeling Limited was Adrien Brody’s first collaboration with writer/director Wes Anderson. The story centers around three estranged brothers (Brody, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman) who come together for a trip through India, a year after their father’s death. In true Wes Anderson style, there is dysfunctional family-based humor, and the tragic moments are still beautifully executed.
The character of middle brother Peter Whitman was reportedly written with Brody in mind, and it shows. He does much of the dramatic heavy lifting, often using his remarkably expressive face and no dialog. As I’ve stated before, I think silence is when Adrien displays his talent most clearly. He would’ve been a great silent film star.
That said, it’s surprising to see someone so expressive delivering the sort of deadpan humor Wes Anderson films are famous for. However, Brody pulls it off quite well, especially in a dinner scene early on in the movie.
Going to Bat for This Movie
Some people (Anderson fans included) dismiss The Darjeeling Limited as, a “white American’s version of India” — that it feels ignorant to the real cultures of the country. What many people fail to understand is… that’s most likely the point. The Whitman brothers are out of touch, and it can be inferred they are rich. These are men who are used to getting what they want. This is especially true of Francis (Wilson), who controls his younger brothers’ every move as almost a force of habit.
Francis wants to go on a “spiritual journey” with his brothers, but he wants it done according to his desires, and his timetable — in fact, he literally hands his brothers itineraries. Francis is seeking an experience like one found in a glossy pamphlet in a hotel lobby. Safe, controlled, and generic. So, the film’s story line reflects this.
We only see India as the Whitman brothers see India: in passing.
What I Enjoyed
It kind of goes without saying at this point, that what I usually enjoy most in the movies I write about here, are Adrien’s performances. No exception here, as he is wonderful. The dramatic parts of the movie center mostly around Peter (Brody). It’s hard to peg Peter as the main character, because the three brothers kind of work as a unit here (like a band, versus a solo act). However, he definitely carries a lot of the weight, as I mentioned going into this article.
Also… he’s flipping hilarious in the parts that call for it! People expect great drama from Adrien Brody (the two are practically synonymous), but the man is funny, too.
What I Enjoyed, Part Two
All three of our Whitman brothers do an impressive job, here. In fact, I was, “not an Owen Wilson person,” until I saw The Darjeeling Limited. Well, Midnight in Paris (which I’d seen about a month prior) nearly converted me, but this one sealed the deal. He was subtle, funny, annoying (when the character was), and in some places, heartbreaking. Wes Anderson knows how to direct Owen Wilson well, I think that’s been well established by now.
Jason Schwartzman co-wrote this script, and I would imagine a lot of that writing was for his character, Jack. He seems a natural fit for Schwartzman’s style of delivery and comic timing. He’s very effective here.
What I Enjoyed, Part Three
I don’t want to spoil the story for you if you haven’t seen it, so I will just say there is a portion of this movie that will break your heart. That section is largely carried by the performances of two men: Irrfan Kahn, and Adrien Brody.
This was the first time I had ever seen Irrfan Kahn in a movie, but I assure you, it will not be the last. As with Brody, Kahn can express emotion effectively with very little dialog. I think he literally utters one sentence here, but he draws our attention whenever he is on screen. Heartbreak, deep reflection, even a sense of peace, all wash over him as we watch. Kahn is practically giving a master class in acting, here.
I can’t praise him enough, and I wish we’d gotten more of him.
A Complaint About “Sweet Lime”
The character of Rita/”Sweet Lime” (Amara Karan), a charming and beautiful stewardess aboard The Darjeeling Limited train, is not as fleshed out as she could have been. She’s kind of treated in a, I hate to say it, but “servant fantasy” sort of way. Even though she is essentially the lead female character, we don’t get to know her.
At one point, she smokes a cigarette and says, “I’ve got to get off this train.” No one asks why (unless they do so off screen). We see a glimpse of how chaotic her work is, but we don’t get much explanation of why she wants to escape the situation. It wouldn’t have taken much more time to write Rita as a person, not an object.
Perhaps we are only shown a tiny slice of her life, to further drive home the point of how self-involved the Whitmans are. None of them really ask her any questions beyond her name. She’s a hot girl who brings them things, and… something else… and that’s pretty much all they care. It’s a shame, because she seems interesting.
There is so much more I could say about this movie: other actors’ performances, the symbolism, and so on, but I’ll spare you an even longer read (and an increased likelihood of spoilers).
Overall, it’s hard to find much wrong with The Darjeeling Limited (other than what I nitpicked above). I’m a tad biased, because it’s one of my favorite movies, as I disclosed. I re-watch it fairly often, and I always seem to get something more out of it. Hopefully, you will, too.