Wes Anderson’s recent pretentious work (The Life Aquatic, Hotel Chevalier) feels cold, cynical, and outlandishly self-conscious, a troubling trend considering these films come right on the heels of his early, more humane masterworks, films which harbor untapped amounts of creativity and sincerity.
With The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson rediscovers this joyous sensibility toward movie-making and character, completely reveling in the diverse and colorful setting of India which acts as metaphor for his protagonist’s evolution toward understanding and transcendence. Anderson’s heroes are The Whitman Brothers (Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson), a trio of estranged siblings who meet up on a train (named The Darjeeling Limited) traveling through the Indian countryside. While the men are trying to reconnect with each other and their long lost mother (Angelica Huston), Anderson paints them as individuals consumed by the past and their place within the family. In fact, the entire film charts the brother’s progression from singular, destructive entities to a collective unit, beautifully evolving each character with astute attention to their familial patterns and hierarchies.
As with most Anderson films, The Darjeeling Limited uses setting to highlight vibrant colors and sounds, in this case yellows, oranges, blues, reds, and sitar music all acting to offset the pain hiding beneath the Whitman’s monotonous surface. These men learn to move past mere language and gestures toward a relationship ripe with substance. Spending time with each other produces a number of life-affirming and fascinating experiences, and like the Whitman’s themselves, we never want to leave their side.