I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan so whenever he makes a film I take notice. But oddly enough his 2007 comedy/drama “The Darjeeling Limited” is one I still needed to see. In true Anderson style “The Darjeeling Limited” has a quirky sense of humor and it dabbles in several of the filmmaker’s familiar themes. It also features some of Anderson’s acting staples including his old college buddy Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Bill Murray. And while some people consider this some of Anderson’s lesser work, I think it’s a movie that captures what I like about his films while carving out its own unique path.
In this offbeat concoction the opening scene is important. In India a businessman (Murray) tries unsuccessfully to catch his train as it departs the station. While he fails another man, encumbered by heavy luggage, just manages to board the train as it heads down the tracks. This short sequence is a microcosm of the entire film. It’s strange, funny, well shot, and filled with meaning.
The man who made the train is Peter (Brody). He is onboard the Darjeeling Limited passenger train to meet his two brothers, the controlling and downright anal Francis (Wilson) and the brokenhearted and obsessive Jack (Schwartzman). The three haven’t seen each other since their father’s funeral and Francis sets up the reunion in hopes of bringing them closer together. The train trip across India is framed as being a spiritual awakening of sorts but Francis may have something else as his motivation.
The movie pulls many laughs from these odd personalities, but that shouldn’t come as any surprise. Wes Anderson’s wacky cinematic worlds routinely feature idiosyncratic people with an assortment of troubles and in various states of despair and melancholy. His humor can be a bit prickly. By that I mean it isn’t easy for some viewers to cozy up to. Personally I love his unique brand and we get plenty of it in this film. But there is also a strong dramatic thread that runs throughout the film and really shows itself in the last act. This mix of well executed comedy and heartfelt, meaningful drama is what drives the picture.
Considering the amounts of dry kooky humor, it may surprise some people to find this much heart. But Anderson has always had a knack for that. He’s always dealing with family troubles as well as feelings of isolation and despondency. We certainly get that in this film. There is symbolism scattered throughout the film that deals on more emotional levels once they are realized. For example, take the aforementioned luggage. Anderson takes something simple like luggage, weaves it throughout the narrative, and uses it to make one of the movie’s more effective points. These treats are clever and satisfying.
I also must give credit to Wilson, Brody, and Shwartzman. These guys work so well within Anderson’s narrative style which probably explains why he keeps going back to them. The three offer great subtlety in their humor and watching them play off each other is a lot of fun. But they also dial it back when the story calls for it which is vital. Theres some good supporting work from Amara Karan as a train stewardess, Wallace Wolodarsky as Francis’ “assistant, and Waris Ahluwalia as the Darjeeling’s chief steward. Bill Murray has a brief but fun role and Anjelica Huston has a small yet important appearance. There are also some nice cameos from Natalie Portman (remember Hotel Chevalier?) and Irrfan Khan.
“The Darjeeling Limited” is soaked with Wes Anderson’s style. Whether it’s the humor and storytelling or his visual methods which include panning cameras, use of colors, or his particular use of music. There are a few lulls that the film experiences particularly in the second half. They never last long but they are noticeable and maybe they do keep this from being some of Anderson’s best work. Regardless I’m still a big fan of this film. I laughed a lot and I really responded to the emotional tugs we get later on. In the end it’s yet another example of why I love Wes Anderson movies.
I ♥ Wes Anderson, too. This one was just fine. I think what I like about Anderson’s cinematography is how he stages every shot as though you looked at a painting. He’s really an artist with the camera. Nice review, Keith 🙂
Great to hear! Anderson is a favorite of mine and his defining style works for me every time. It’s also cool that all of his movies could almost fit in the same universe.
What’s your favorite Wes Anderson picture?
Moonrise Kingdom 🙂
Oh that’s a good one!
Great review. And agreed. This isn’t Anderson’s best, any Anderson is still good. It is touching, meaningful and way better than average, even if it isn’t Moonrise Kingdom or Tenenbaums good.
Isn’t it amazing how a slightly lesser Anderson film is still better than so many other movies out there? The man is an absolute genius both in style and humor. He wins me over somatically and I’m always laughing at what he does. Rushmore, Mr. Fox, and on…
Mr. Fox is the one missing experience for me. I will be changing that very soon, though.
It’s an absolute blast! You definitely need to see it. Everything from the sharp wit to the stop-motion animation is just brilliant. It was my kids introduction to Wes Anderson!
Great review man, this and I think only Bottle Rocket remain as my only un-seen Wes Anderson flicks. But color me a huge fan of his as well, I absolutely have loved everything I’ve seen of his. . almost equally.
Looking forward to Grand Budapest immensely!!
Bottle Rocket is a tad different in some ways than his other work but in many ways it’s similar. Thrilled about “Budapest” but just found out it won’t be showing in my area this weekend! Can you believe that crap???
man i’m having that same fear that we’ll also get a delayed release here. It seems that by now his work may have become popular enough to maybe get wide releases but i guess not. . fingers (and toes) crossed for tmrw! If not, guess it’s Rise of an Empire for me. . . . . . .
We got Moonrise on opening weekend but not this one. It’s doubly surprising considering how many TV spots I’ve been seeing for it! Sighhhhhh
haha well, the wait shall be worth the while, i’m 99.98% sure. 😀
Definitely my least favorite of Anderson’s, which is mainly due to the fact that it seems like he stopped caring so much about character-development and more about his style. Instead, it just ends up being a bit bland. Good review Keith.
Fair enough. I thought it was very good mainly because of the characters. I thought they were what made the film. I really thought some of Anderson’s metaphors for the state of the brothers’ relationships were wonderful.
Not seen this one of Anderson’s but I really like the stuff of his I have seen. There just isn’t another director like Anderson out there, he’s one of a kind. Off to see Budapest Hotel today and very much looking forward to it 🙂
I would be seeing “Grand Budapest” but for some ungodly reason it isn’t showing here. Talk about frustrating!!!
Glad to see everyone is counting the minutes to Grand Budapest Hotel. I am going on Sunday. I can’t wait. I have to confess that I fell asleep in The Darjeeling Limited… not because of the film but because I was exhausted and I haven’t managed to come back to it yet. I really want to though.
It’s really good. Some haven’t had a good reaction to it but I think it has its own cozy place in Anderson’s whacky cinematic world. Very good flick. Now if only “Budapest” would open here! I mean what the cuss! 😉
I’m a massive Wes fan, but I think maybe Darjeeling is the least of his movies. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s ace, because I do. I just prefer the others. I can’t wait to see Grand Budapest Hotel
Have you checked out the book ‘The Wes Anderson Collection’ by Matt Zoller Seiz? It is a mammoth coffee table book and it is AMAZING!
I haven’t read it but I actually just heard an interview with him yesterday. Sound fantastic.
I like this one a great deal. Definitely not his best though. It does set just ahead of Bottle Rocket and Aquatic on my personal list (two films I also really like).
Love hearing from a fellow WA fan!
Sometimes I feel like I’m the only Wes Anderson fan in the world, y’know. Not many of my circle know anything about him.
Oh brother let me join you in that. I live in a small Southern town and there are plenty of people here who love movies. That being said, if you were to ask the vast majority of them who is Wes Anderson they would give you a puzzled look!
Thankfully the blogging world has given me a number of movie loving pals who appreciate the man and his work.
I’ve really gone off Anderson, but this was the last film of his I watched that I enjoyed – and I think that was down to the setting as much as anything. I’m now in a cycle where I watch his films because everyone raves about them, just to make sure I’m not missing something spectacular, but I’m fed up with the same camera angles, colours, tweeness and quirk.
I can see where his consistent style and quirky humor may not resonate with everyone. My wife for example – she can appreciate some of his style but she really isn’t what you would call a Wes Anderson fan.
Personally I love his films mainly because I’m a sucker for not only his style but that off-beat humor. I think that gets lost among the aesthetics.
So you probably arent as pumped as I am to see “Grand Budapest”, right? 😉
Haha right! The thing is I really liked the first few films of his I saw – Rushmore, Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic; I liked the sense of humour and how different they were to anything else. Now I just find myself admiring the effort that’s always evident, but I’m desperate to see him do something different.
Rushmore is fabulous. It’s dark and a bit creepy but it is also very funny in some parts. It’s hard for me to rate my favorite film of his but Rushmore would be close to the top.
As for doing something different, how about Fantastic Mr. Fox? Granted, it still has a lot of Anderson’s signature style but it is also different.
Good point, I forgot about that one. I think it really just turned with Moonrise Kingdom for me. Not that I want the guy to make Transformers 5 or anything.
I haven’t seen too many Wes Anderson films, but I have seen this one! This was the second one I saw and I remember liking it a lot. It was a while ago though so the memory is fading a bit.
The thing about his movies though, is that his style is so overwhelming that I can’t watch too many of them in quick succession. I have to space them otherwise it’s just too much. I love his films, but in moderation.
Grand Budapest Hotel is only in New York and LA this week I think, and it’s really annoying me. Boston’s getting it next week but I’ll be out of town unfortunately, so I will have to wait until the following week to see it. Limited release schedules are so annoying. It seems to be getting good reviews though so I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait!
AHA! Okay thanks for that clarification. I assumed it had a broader release this week and we were just shut out (as we often are). If it is only in New York and LA that explains a lot.
I can see what you’re saying about his style. He is very committed to his style and if it plays heavily into almost every film he does. Have you seen Rushmore by chance? It’s fabulous.
Awesome review! I so want to see this, one of Wes’ work I’ve missed but I’m glad to hear there’s a lot of heart on top of the fun kooky humor.
It’s really funny Ruth! Some have said it lacks the heart or the relationships that are found in other Wes Anderson movies. IMO the entire movie is about relationships. I hope you get a chance to see it soon because I would love to hear your reaction to it. 🙂
Nice one, bro! I’m also a BIG Anderson fan. I just love his idiosyncratic style. For me, this is his masterpiece. I even had it my personal top ten films for a while. I love it that much!! Many didn’t connect with its themes but having travelled a little myself (and losing my father), I really connected with this. I didn’t find a flaw at all and would love to revisit it. My initial rating is 5 stars but I’ll question that when I do spend time with these characters again.
Bravo. Great to hear man. It really struck a chord with me as well. Brilliant story and the way that humor is interwoven with the deeper personal story was very effective. I’m definitely a fan of this one.
Very happy to see you rate it so highly! Like you say, the humour and the personal worked very well. I’m not normally a fan of Wilson but I thought he and the other two where superb. There was a great balance between them all. Just a wonderful movie! 🙂
I’m with you on Owen Wilson. Oddly though he seems to fit pretty nicely in Anderson’s offbeat world. There are also some really cool metaphors scattered throughout the movie – the luggage was my favorite.
The luggage metaphor was fantastic. If I remember correctly, it had their dad’s initials on it? What better way to leave your baggage behind?
Exactly! All of the luggage they carried around had his initials. Then you get that last seen. Beautiful!
This is the one Wes Anderson movie I haven’t seen. I’m a big fan as well and I can’t wait to see Grand Budapest. Nice review.
Thanks! As a fellow Anderson fan you can probably guess that it’s really worth seeing. I liked it a lot!
This was the first Wes Anderson movie I actually liked as I wasn’t a fan of the movies which came before. Ever since that one I’ve loved his work
I really like it too. It is a great example of Anderson’s mix of humor and more serious themes. I love the way he pulls it all together.