The Darjeeling Limited
In The Darjeeling Limited, director Wes Anderson's fifth feature, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Anderson stalwart Owen Wilson play estranged brothers who travel to India to achieve some sort of spiritual enlightenment in the wake of their father's death and significant personal crises. Jack (Schwartzman) is trying to break up with his ex-girlfriend, and uses a stolen password to listen to her personal voice mail messages. Peter (Brody) is about to become a father, but never really imagined he'd stay married to his wife. And Francis (Wilson) is a possibly suicidal entrepreneur with untold wealth and, as the firstborn son, an inescapable need to bring his family together. Wilson's bandage-wrapped role became strangely prescient when the actor recently attempted suicide, with which Darjeeling may be associated for several years to come.
After two high-energy movies driven by ensemble casts, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson switches gears to a smaller, more personal piece co-written with Schwartzman and Roman Coppola. The move also represents a further shift by Anderson away from traditional narratives; if Life Aquatic was disjointed, Darjeeling could be considered nothing more than a collection of awkward vignettes, beautifully shot, infused with profundity (even if you can't figure out what's profound), but ultimately only loosely connected. More and more, Anderson appears to be taking cues from François Truffaut and Michelangelo Antonioni's movies, more concerned with tone and provoking emotional reactions than telling a story in any conventional manner.
The three brothers board the titular train after Francis organizes the journey, complete with laminated itineraries that include time for spiritual discoveries. They have little in common and little interest in each others' lives but, for better or worse, they are brothers and that means something. At least it does to Francis, who has also secretly plotted for the three of them to reach a convent in Nepal where their mother, Sister Patricia Whitman (Anjelica Huston), disappeared to long ago. He's convinced the train ride, all of the itinerated plans, and that reaching their mother will somehow heal them all.
This all reads well and good on paper, but Anderson's whimsical charms have unfortunately grown increasingly excessive and self-indulging--even pretentious in the way that French New Wave, despite how powerful so much of it was, managed to still be. The director doesn't even feel interested in inviting his audience along with him, which is probably why at 91 minutes, The Darjeeling Limited feels like Anderson's longest movie to date. Though there is much to admire here in ambition, the effect might require too many viewings ever to be truly appreciated.