MOVIE REVIEW- In training: 'Darjeeling' not everyone's cup of tea
The Whitman brothers, who haven't spoken in the year since their father's funeral, meet in India to try to reconnect in The Darjeeling Limited.
Francis (Owen Wilson), the control freak who organized the trip, tells his siblings, Peter (Adrien Brody) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman, looking like the young Sonny Bono), his three goals: "to become brothers again like we used to be," "make this a spiritual journey," and "be open to everything and say yes to everything."
Both the love they have for each other and the ways they drive each other crazy are obvious at once. Details of their lives are parceled out more sparingly, usually as secrets told by one brother to another, to be kept from the third. Brothers and Sisters fans know how long that lasts.
Francis' head is bandaged as the result of a recent motorcycle crash. Peter isn't ready to be a father, but he's going to be in about six weeks. Jack, ever the romantic, tries to get over his ex-girlfriend by joining the Yard High Club with Rita (Amara Karan), the train attendant.
Peter has been helping himself to their father's things because he was dad's favorite, and Francis resents it, as he resents everything he can't control. Jack and Peter resent the way Francis takes charge of everything, yet defer to him when he doesn't. As they kneel in one of the many temples they visit, Jack asks him, "What should we pray for now?"
The last meeting between Jack and his girlfriend (Natalie Portman) is seen in Hotel Chevalier, a.k.a. "Part I of ‘The Darjeeling Limited,'" a short that was only available online (perhaps so they wouldn't have to pay Portman extra royalties?) until soft openings induced Fox Searchlight to add it to theatrical prints of the feature. It plays like a music video for Peter Sarstedt's "Where Do You Go To, My Lovely?" a ‘70s ode to jet-set namedropping.
Various misbehaviors get the Whitmen ejected from the train, and they continue their journey by other means of transportation, weighted down by literal as well as emotional baggage. Thus we get to see India's railroads and back roads instead of the usual cities and the Taj Mahal.
This is cult favorite Wes Anderson's (Rushmore, Bottle Rocket) best film since The Royal Tenenbaums, which he followed with The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, a total washout.
Anderson likes to recycle his actors, so Bill Murray appears as a businessman who misses the train, and Anjelica Huston plays the brothers' mother, now a nun in a convent in the Himalayan foothills. You'll see that one of her sons takes after her. Barbet Schroeder cameos as a mechanic in a flashback to the year before.
The Darjeeling Limited is about peacock feathers, matching luggage, savory snacks, a poisonous snake, and a man-eating tiger, among other things. You can never take it entirely seriously, even if you're not sure what's funny about it. On the other hand, you can't laugh full-out at it because it just might be serious.
Some filmmakers show life as it is, some show life as it should be; Anderson shows life as it would be if it were like Wes Anderson movies. You may not always get what he's going for, but the fact that you can tell there's something to get sets The Darjeeling Limited above most of the competition.