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September 2007
The Darjeeling Limited

By Nicole Schmuelian

The Darjeeling Limited

Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Wes Anderson
Screenwriters: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman
Cast: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, Irfan Khan, Camilla Rutherford, Amara Karan, and Bill Murray


Many of Wes Anderson's films examine the way a particular family is functional or dysfunctional, depending on the way that you look at it. The Royal Tenebaums deals with themes like sibling rivalry, parental neglect and the reason we are bonded to our family forever, blood? Though his films are all unique they still have his stylistic touch. His characters are flawless in the way that they are full of flaws. And this is what makes his characters sympathetic, relatable, funny and tragic all at the same time. What is so great about a writer who is also a director is that the vision on paper does not get lost or trampled once translated to the screen. Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola have to be credited too for their collaboration on this script.

Owen Wilson, the eldest Whitman brother, request that his two brothers meet him on a train the Darjeeling Limited, which is driving through India. The three Whitman brothers hadn't seen each other for a year since their father’s death. The chemistry between the three brothers is uncanny especially for the first half of the film when Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzmen are forced to stay together in such small quarters. At first, there is a rift between them, but as times passes they assume their roles as brothers and connect through personal problems they are having back home and the need to go find their mother who has become a nun. Angelica Houston is also no stranger to Anderson’s films and is always graceful and illustrious even dressed as a nun.

What is comical in Anderson’s films is the dark absurd humor we seem to neglect to find funny in our personal lives. Probably because it's only funny in retrospect, or when you can point it out on the screen in one of Anderson’s corky characters. A playful and animated side of Adrien Brody is revealed in his role as Peter Whitman, the middle brother. Brody plays alongside two of Anderson’s customary cast members. Owen Wilson is far more interesting to watch in a film that contains both comedy and a drama because he is like a chameleon. Wilson is one of the few actors who can play a comedic role that looks so effortless, but at the same time he can so candidly be vulnerable and moving. Having his head patched in gauze and an ace bandage throughout the entire film couldn't be any funnier. Physically, Jason Schwartzman’s height or lack of compared to the other actors is comical in itself; but don't be fooled by it for he is a force, a great force which can stand up to Wilson and Brody’s performances. The three of them all are so different and have so much to offer which keeps the film exciting. All three of the brothers have their idiosyncrasies which make the characters so attractive and so funny. From getting loaded on Indian medication and liquor to how ridiculous they look as Americans in a country so grounded in their tradition.

Wes Anderson is loyal in the film to India because he doesn't whitewash the audience’s experience of it. The colors and characters in the film are as bold as the country; just because the audience is experiencing India through an American point of view Anderson does not downplay the culture to make it more accessible to an American audience. He also is so great with designing his sets and filling the spaces the characters occupy. There are also the small meticulous details that Anderson understands is important in order to capture a character, tone or mood. For example the use of custom and props; such as the matching luggage's of the Whitman brothers, which had belonged to their father, and the odd design and shapes of the baggage are things, which add a layer of comedy. The luggage's hold symbolism and is carried like a weight on their shoulders everywhere they go. Wes Anderson, as a director, has a deep understanding on the impact music can have in single scene. The music is just as important as the dialogue in his films. They are moving. Songs are used to enhance our experience by further expressing the scene, moments or feelings. The music is also used to sometimes work against the mood of a scene, which adds a pinch of humor. Anderson is a true auteur and you would be crazy to miss your ticket to The Darjeeling Limited.