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The Darjeeling Limited

Review Written by: Jack Moulton
Film: A+

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman
Produced by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Lydia Dean Pilcher and Scott Rudin
Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Amara Karan, Wallace Wolodarsky, Anjelica Huston, Irfan Khan
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Wes Anderson's fifth film is not only his best but one of the most perfect film experiences I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. The film had me absolutely captivated throughout its entire running time. I found it impossible to divert my attention or find a flaw. An enlightening and refreshing piece of work. Anderson dips into similar themes like in his previous The Royal Tenenbaums, Bottle Rocket and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou of family and loyalty; reuniting them and having his characters fix their loose ends. And again, like the others, one of the characters tries to repair it with a plan. It features his pleasant ironic humour, flawless choices of mood music and extraordinary perfect art direction. He is a required taste, that I, of course, boast. I have the incapability to get it out of my head.

I had the pleasure of viewing The Darjeeling Limited in two parts; Part 1 being the short film Hotel Chevalier and Part 2 being the film itself The Darjeeling Limited. Hotel Chevalier did no justice to the quality of the feature film that I was about to witness. It was just a taste of Anderson with limited jokes and use of music (one song repeated in the film later on), it was sort of pleasing. Starring Jason Schwartzman, whose debut was Anderson's Rushmore, and a nude Natalie Portman. The film does add to Schwartzman's character and gives him some depth. A necessary bore. The ironies of how he uses his iPod did crack a smile on my face (having the difficulty of doing it manually rather than using the remote and how he has the 'click' setting on).

Owen Wilson (Francis Whitman), Adrien Brody (Peter Whitman) and co-writer Jason Schwartzman (Jack Whitman) star as three estranged brothers, who have not encountered each other since their fatherís funeral a year before. Francis, who has had a near death experience so his face wrapped in bandages throughout the film, has planned a spiritual awakening aboard The Darjeeling Limited, which is heading straight through India, to re-connect with his living family and appreciate life, in the form of adapting to another culture. Unfortunately, through a complication of an escaped poisonous snake, a recent purchase of Peterís, and a man-eating tiger prowling their motherís territory, their arrangements are destroyed and so are their placements on The Darjeeling Limited leaving them 11 enthusiastically designed bags, a printer and a laminating machine. But that doesnít stop the spiritual quest they are searching for.

I felt Brody delivered the better performance of the three as the brother with a baby on the way but with commitment issues, expecting to get divorced. He was the one there by his fatherís side on his death of which he claims their father said that Peter was his favourite child. The other two resent that, of course, which is common for siblings to argue in that way. Even with Peter's commitment problems we learn he has a difficulty in letting go, which we discover many of his possessions originally belonging to his father and brother (which he didn't ask for, meaning Francis immediately reclaims it no matter where they are Ė in this case, praying; having brothers myself, I can relate). A saddening scene appears in the film after the trio are booted from the train in which they come across three Indian boys having trouble crossing a river, Peter fails to save 'his one'. The competition between brothers has been destroyed and the spirit of that obsession is killed. This moves the film to a more poignant pace showing us the boyís funeral and the Whitman's father's funeral. Peter is the middle brother.

In Hotel Chevalier, we learn Schwartzmanís character has been living at a hotel in Paris for several months. He is tracked down by his ex-girlfriend played by Portman who seeks only one night with him. Jack is an author. And he uses women for his inspiration, as demonstrated by having a brief engagement with a stewardess on the train. In The Darjeeling Limited he repeats a conversation that seemed spontaneous in Hotel Chevalier and labels it as part of his most recent work. Again, Peter is unconvinced that they are fictional characters, after reading a poem he read of Jack's near the beginning of the film. But what struck me most is the pace he spoke it in. As fast as possible, as if he doesnít want to be contradicted. Jack also provides the music in the film through his iPod on speakers; I found it beautiful. Itís saddening to know that their father never experienced the brilliance of his art; dying before he even opened Jack's book. Schwartzman has most of the one-liners which the trailers do no justice to. Jack is the youngest brother.

Wilson, as the centre and reason for the film, plans all the following events. A planned spiritual awakening. Eventually we learn that's impossible to plan out. Once trying to mix with the culture by buying a snake and then letting it escape causing their departure from the Darjeeling Limited, thatís when the plan stops. Francis planned to visit some of the 'most spiritual places in the world', in the form of Indian temples, as his believed way of enlightenment. From that point onwards the men experience more spiritual enlightenment than any amount of temples and praying could have achieved. Francis still has the persistence to see their mother, man-eating tiger or no man-eating tiger. Played wonderfully by Angelica Huston, they all forgive each other in silence (particularly for their mother not attending their father's funeral). We learn that you cannot force something like this, and it will just happen. To explain Francis would be a spoiler. He is the eldest of the three.

Anderson has finally convinced me he is the finest living director. He may have no range and one style. But he is no less than perfect at it. In The Darjeeling Limited, you could just judge it from the first 5 minutes. Anderson keeps a welcome consistency in tone, visuals and humour. The unique design he has put forward to this masterpiece (which has been in developing from his previous films), is putting the focus directly in the middle of the screen. This feels as quirky as possible as directors usually film at an angle for a more realistic stance, plus its easier to do. The style felt truly phenomenal due to me sitting right in the middle of the theatre with no-one in front of me. What is wonderful to know is that Anderson (plus his co-writers, Roman Coppola and star Jason Schwartzman) wrote this as they experienced it. They went to India for the inspiration. This tremendous effort they put forward personalizes the film further. My summary line was "An experience to share..." which is in reference to them sharing their experience on film. Ironically everyone who went to see it with me hated it. Anderson is an acquired taste.

The film has possibly the greatest art direction of all-time. It's so unbelievably striking and vibrant that I can remember every second of it. Everything. Everything is perfect. Everything is perfectly arranged. The way you think portraits as perfect. This had an extremely profound effect on me. I sat there; leaning forward (so I could see it first, in a way) with an astounded expression on my face and a completely tense position. I wanted to pay full attention because I knew this would be the greatest and most perfect film experience I would have the pleasure of having. I wanted to savour every second. Like most Andersonís, the choice of music perfectly compliments the mood; which feature in the films of the inspiration for The Darjeeling Limited; Satyajit Ray.

My theory for the end and for the spiritual quest that is achieved is shown through the way how they get on the train home. A reflection of the beginning, in which Peter chases the Darjeeling Limited (cue cameo from Bill Murray) for being late. The trio are again late for their next train which is escaping their grasp by the second. To catch it they drop their treasured and personalized luggage and hop onto it while the have the chance. They have finally learnt to 'Leave the baggage behind (forget the past) and seize an opportunity (make the most of the future)'. We see Portman on the train they get on (I assume it is anyway), so it's possible Jack hooks up with her again. Peter will enjoy his life with his son. And Francis will drop his suicidal tendencies. At least, this is what I hope. What's most beautiful is how routine it all is (unlike the popular opinion of repetitiveness), once they get in their rooms the same thing happens as they got on the Darjeeling Limited.

A reason for why this film is so perfect is in the way it translates the relationship between brothers on the screen. It is impossible to hide secrets from one another (they only talk about each other to the other brother, who then just tells them instantaneously), as they know each other too well. And they understand each other too well. Meaning they don't argue or fight; much. Peter can tell instantly what one of his brothers is doing on the phone. Jack can't keep his secrets from them, because they know him too well. And Francis decides what his other siblings want, whether it be exampled from including Jack in arguments with Peter or ordering them their food. They feel the need to print their initials on their baggage and take far more medicine than they need. Being a child of three brothers like the characters in the film personalized it massively and I reached a far greater understanding of the film than I ever thought I could have. I can't and donít think I have fully expressed my incredible passion for this film. Perfect in every way. Any flaw you may have found cannot bend my opinion. I award it a top 5 placement in my all-time list upon my first viewing and might join the race for my favourite. Well done Mr. Anderson, I await your future films to come.

Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody and Owen Wilson in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited.
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