‘Darjeeling Limited’ made masterpiece by keeping things simple, unique

Melissa Treolo

“The Darjeeling Limited” opens with a race.

The place is a crowded train station in Darjeeling, India. The time is mid-morning. As the Darjeeling Limited, a train boasting a first-class sleeper car and charming hand-painted walls pulls out of the station, a frantic, middle-aged businessman played by Bill Murray rushes to meet it. He is soon overtaken, however, by another latecomer, Peter Whitman, played by Adrien Brody. Peter jumps onto the back of the moving train, smiles satisfactorily at the businessman growing smaller and smaller in the distance and enters the train a winner. What he has won is a trip with his two estranged brothers: Jack, played by Jason Schwartzman, and Francis, played by Owen Wilson. The three haven’t seen each other in a year, since their father’s funeral.

Labeled a “spiritual journey” by Francis, the oldest of the three and the self-appointed leader of the pack, the trip is really just a cover-up for three brothers running away from certain realities they aren’t yet ready to face. Peter’s wife is about to have a baby. Jack is trying to disengage himself from his ex-girlfriend. Francis is recovering from a supposed car accident. All of these issues, and a fair amount of sibling rivalry, converge into one dysfunctional relationship.

But not one without its charm and humor. Francis and Peter get into a fight, the kind where belts are thrown at faces and hair is pulled, but not without saying “I love you” in the middle of it. Jack maces them both in the face but not without properly warning them, “I love you too, but I’m gonna mace you in the face!” About five minutes of the film is devoted to the sharing and comparing of illegal pharmaceuticals each of them bought separately before entering the train. “The Darjeeling Limited” highlights the differences between Peter, Jack and Francis but also shows they are more alike than they care to admit.

“The Darjeeling Limited” is typical Wes Anderson fare, with loads of slow motion shots and that understated but very saturated color he and his production team have perfected. Performances are well acted but much of the character of the film lies solely in the soundtrack, a unique blend of Indian folk music and early rock bands like the Rolling Stones and The Kinks. The underlying dilemma of the film is illustrated by one line spoken by Francis: “Because we don’t trust each other.” How this problem sorts itself out is exactly what makes Anderson’s film work: By keeping it simple.