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  Publicity Stills of "The Darjeeling Limited"
(Courtesy from 20th Century Fox)

Genre: Drama/Comedy
Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Amara Karan, Irfan Khan, Wallace Wolodarsky, Waris Ahluwalia
RunTime: 1 hr 31 mins
Released By: 20th Century Fox
Rating: PG

Opening Day: 3 January 2008



In director Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited," three American brothers who have not spoken to each other in a year set off on a train voyage across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with each other -- to become brothers again like they used to be. Their "spiritual quest", however, veers rapidly off-course (due to events involving over-the-counter pain killers, Indian cough syrup, and pepper spray), and they eventually find themselves stranded alone in the middle of the desert with eleven suitcases, a printer, and a laminating machine. At this moment, a new, unplanned journey suddenly begins. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman star in this film about their adventure and their friendship.

Movie Review:

In 2006 we've seen movies with the brotherhood theme being remade from earlier works, with the likes of Blood Brothers and The Warlords having competitive "brothers" out to outdo one another. Here, Wes Anderson gives us a movie about brothers as well, but this time siblings who come together to seek out the meaning to life, and to bury old ghosts behind them.

The Darjeeling Limited is the name of the train that the Whitman brothers take in their journey of self discovery. From oldest to youngest - Francis (Owen Wilson), Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman), each of them, similar to their travelling encumberance, brings onboard plenty of their woes in a reluctant effort to follow the instructions of Francis for this little get together, planned down to the last T. If you've seen the battered picture of Owen Wilson in publicity stills, his Francis had just scraped through a narrow escape from certain death, and in rejecting the light at the end of the tunnel, re-enters life with new but eccentric vigour, and wants to use this second chance to get together, bond with his brothers, and make things right again.

As mentioned, each of them brings along certain
emotional baggage which may prove to make or break Francis' well meaning joint trip. All unseen and told through discussions, Peter is struggling to make sense of himself soon becoming a dad, while Jack has to deal with rejection, and yet still holding that candle toward his ex, degrading himself into doing something remotely unethical. And it is the banter that comes fast and furious for the most parts of the first half, that makes this movie a wonderful, pleasing delight to sit through, as they squabble and make revelations about themselves in priceless fashion.

But it's not all fun and laughter throughout, nor as predictable as a train on tracks, knowing exactly which stops you'll call at, and exactly which places the train will cut across. The journey's filled with enough kooky encounters, some no thanks to Francis' earnestness in wanting to impress upon his brothers, and their resentment of the fact that they're taking orders from him. Being untrusting of one another, they hide secrets, and through the wonderful scripting by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, what comes across are behaviourial traits that are instantly recognizable within ourselves, especially pertaining to slight betrayals which makes way for petty arguments.

What I had enjoyed about Darjeeling Limited, is indeed the character interactions. For those with siblings, there are moments where you can definitely identify with, such as being bossy and imposing, or innately being the favourite. But let's not forget about the setting in India, which provides some perfect avenue for our brothers to seek their respective enlightenments. Each of them travels with baggage that they need to let go of to free themselves from their state of depression, and watching them etch slowly toward their objective isn't easy, especially when they have to put aside differences to jointly address an issue that has been bugging them, which made the second half of the film somewhat emotional.

There are some superb sequences that Darjeeling
Limited offered, besides the wonderful colours, atmosphere and background soundtrack chugging the movie along. One involved a harrowing scene where the brothers teamed to save three boys on a river (look out for Irfan Khan as the dad), and the other involved Angelica Huston, who provides most of the answers as to the boys' journey and quest. In short, if I were to make a recommendation, then The Darjeeling Limited is definitely one of the movies you have to watch when it opens on the new year week.

Look out too for a Wes Anderson regular, Bill Murray, in a cameo role without any dialogue.

P.S. The short which preceded the events in The Darjeeling Limited, entitled Hotel Chevalier, was made available online free for a limited period of time a few months back. Starring Natalie Portman (yes, we do see her in one of those blink-and-you-miss moments in Darjeeling) and Jason Schwartzman, it tells of the 24 hour encounter between Jason's Jack and Natalie as Jack's ex at the titular hotel which had its encounter pretty much referenced in the movie. I feel that without watching Hotel Chevalier, some nuances and references would be lost, so for the completist out there, if you can get your hands on the short, give it a watch first (you can try looking real hard at those video sharing sites), as it will give an added dimension to the Jack character.

Movie Rating:

(A soulful train ride which serves up a playful, visual treat)

Review by Stefan Shih

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