Estranged brothers Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) reunite for a train trip across India. The siblings have not spoken in over a year, ever since their father passed away. Francis is recovering from a motorcycle accident, Peter cannot cope with his wife's pregnancy, and Jack cannot get over his ex-lover. The brothers fall into old patterns of behavior as Francis reveals an undisclosed reason for the reunion.
Since his feature debut Bottle Rocket just over a decade ago, Wes Anderson has been making charming, bittersweet comedies about family dysfunction. But after the sparkling Rushmore and brilliant The Royal Tenenbaums, he went overboard on artifice in his last film, The Life Aquatic. Happily he’s back on track with The Darjeeling Limited, which is a blend of the quirky and heartfelt.
The film has three estranged American brothers trying to reconnect with each other and find themselves as they travel across India. Each is nursing deep pain and uncertainty. Francis, played by Owen Wilson, has recently suffered a near fatal motorbike accident. Adrien Brody’s Peter is conflicted about becoming a father, while Jason Schwartzman’s youngest sibling Jack is heartbroken at having split up with his girlfriend. Francis wants them all to find spirituality – and he’s got it scheduled on laminated itineraries.
An abrupt departure into tragedy mid-way through the film reminds the characters and us that India’s not simply background for western notions of spirituality. It’s here that the film is at its most affecting.
Wilson and Schwartzman are frequent collaborators of Anderson, and Adrien Brody rounds out a believably fractious family dynamic.
The movie’s central symbol – the brothers literally carrying their dead dad’s useless baggage – is overdone but appropriate. Anderson’s gentle parody of westerners who lob into an ancient culture expecting to pick up enlightenment and peace as easily as a shoe shine or over-the-counter painkillers is very funny. As a reminder that the journey can be the destination, The Darjeeling Limited rates three and a half stars.
Watch The Darjeeling Limited on Wednesday 3 April at 8:35pm on SBS VICELAND.