A quirky family saga from Wes Anderson — yes, we've been here before. If there is a problem with The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson's Indian-themed tale of self discovery and fraternal relationships, it's that it covers similar ground to the rather more satisfying The Royal Tenebaums — and suffers, slightly, from the comparison. Of course, not being quite as good as one of the best films of century isn't exactly a negative and there are still pleasures aplenty in this tale of three brothers reunited for a train trip across India.
The trip is the idea of Francis (Wilson), the eldest brother now running the mysterious, unexplained family business since the death of their father. He's concerned that the brothers haven't spoken for over a year and thus assembles Peter (Brody) and Jack (Schwartzman) for some quality bonding time on a spiritual journey across India. A carefully planned, optimised-for-full-spiritual-awareness journey across India: Francis' assistant Brendan (Wolodarsky) is elsewhere on the train, researching, compiling and laminating the day's schedule for maximum benefit. However, this being a Wes Anderson film and the location being India, plans don't necessarily work — and, due to pain-killers, Jack's onboard romance, an escaped cobra and a can of Mace, the brothers' journey follows its own path. On foot. With 11 monogrammed suitcases, a printer and a laminator.
Obviously, this is where the real journey happens, where the real lessons are learned and where the brothers rediscover their deep bond. As such, for all its whimsical window-dressing, The Darjeeling Limited is a fairly predictable tale but, fortunately, one with enough charm, wit and off-kilter suprises to feel like it's bringing something fresh to this sub-genre. The three central performances are also first rate, although the gents are blown off the screen by a small turn from Anjelica Huston as their mother. On balance it's a very good film, but it would be interesting to see Anderson break out of this deliberately quirky, familial mould. Oh, and the soundtrack's rather good, too.
EXTRAS ** The Hotel Chevalier short is included, which is terrific, because parts of the film just won't make sense without seeing this first. Oh, and also because Natalie Portman is naked in it. The only other bonus is a featurette called The Darjeeling Limited Walking Tour. Which is a guided tour of the train that was used to shoot the film, and a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at the shoot itself. Sadly, we don't get any deleted scenes or commentary tracks.