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The Darjeeling Limited

The Darjeeling Limited

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

WES Anderson’s latest film may unfold against the epic backdrop of India but many of his themes remain the same in The Darjeeling Limited, a funny, moving and ultimately life-affirming tale of three brothers on a spiritual quest.

The brothers in question – Jack (Jason Schwartzman), Francis (Owen Wilson) and Peter (Adrien Brody) – haven’t spoken in years but determine to reconnect during a train journey through India. But they get more than they bargained for once they’re thrown from the train following a series of confrontations, misunderstandings and pain killer-induced mishaps.

Co-written by Anderson, Schwartzman and Roman Coppola to reflect their own personal experiences, the film pretty much captivates from the start thanks to a wonderfully surreal short called Hotel Chevalier that finds Schwartzman’s Jack reluctantly reuniting with the love of his life (Natalie Portman) in Paris.

Thereafter, it’s over to India where the film drops in another delicious cameo featuring Bill Murray racing with Brody’s Peter to make the train. Only one of them does.

Once on board, the film focuses firmly on the brothers and their various emotional conflicts and back stories are revealed through a series of misadventures that amuse and touch at the same time.

Finding out what makes them tick is terrific fun, as is Anderson’s use of location and the way in which he effortlessly juggles the emotion with the comedy. And the performances are universally excellent.

Wilson, in particular, seems to relish the opportunity to break slightly from his trademark style and invests Francis with a great deal of melancholy to offset the outward charisma. It’s a performance that some may feel bears striking similarities with recent real life.

But Schwartzman and Brody are equally involving characters who demonstrate some typically quirky Anderson character traits, whilst wrestling with notions of family and self-doubt.

Anderson also deserves credit for keeping the pace lively and always finds new ways to keep audiences captivated (whether its through the odd bit of slapstick or some notable supporting characters) and clearly relishes the bigger scale afforded by the landscape.

Insights into Indian culture, especially late on, provide the film with some genuinely affecting set pieces – as does the Randall Poster inspired soundtrack that capably mixes The Kinks and The Stones with the music of Satyajit Ray.

Sadly, The Darjeeling Limited probably won’t tempt anyone who hasn’t previously been won over by Anderson’s unique style even though it’s an emotionally enriching experience that’s funny, sad and capable of resonating with everyone who sees it.

It’s beauty is as breathtaking as the landscape it unfolds against.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 104mins
UK DVD Release: April 7, 2008