Three affluent and self-centred brothers, played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman, embark on a quasi-spiritual journey through India after the death of their father in Wes Anderson’s fifth film, The Darjeeling Limited. The oldest, Francis Whitman, is a control-freak with ulterior motives for bringing his brothers to India (i.e. to find their mother) and has sustained multiple injuries from a recent motorcycle accident. Peter, the middle brother, reveals that his wife is in her last trimester back in America. The youngest, Jack, is a writer who pines after his ex-girlfriend and hooks up with the pretty stewardess, Rita (Amara Karan), on the train. The name of the film comes from the colourful locomotive that the brothers ride through India (until getting kicked off for bringing a poisonous snake on board). Together, the bickering siblings visit shrines and markets, fight over items of inheritance, guzzle pills and alcohol, and eventually open up to each other about the difficulties and struggles they ran away from. Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, and Natalie Portman also make appearances.
Anderson’s character studies of the three Whitman brothers are vastly entertaining, touching upon the universal. As unlikeable and quarrelsome as the egotistical men seem, they are slowly revealed to be holding onto a lot of trauma, both individually and shared. Their back-stories are glimpsed at and implied through conversation (and one major flashback), leaving most of it for the viewer to piece together. The real climax of the film occurs in the middle; after following their itinerary toward spiritual enlightenment and finding none, the brothers have an encounter with death. Surrounded by mourning Indian villagers, their own petty squabbles dissipate and they reconnect with each other. Disappointingly, some of the emptier scenes in the third act squander the catharsis of that episode. However, this is still one of my favourite Wes Anderson films, for its art direction (of course) and its realistic portrayal of siblings.
Rating: 3 out of 5 custom-monogrammed leather suitcases