If Darjeeling Limited was just another film about affluent, messed-up Westerners on a spiritual quest in India, it would be easy to dismiss it.
But director Wes Anderson is Hollywood's high priest of dysfunctional families. He infuses his broken, off-kilter characters with such whimsical charm, that its hard not be seduced.
Darjeeling Limited is about three brothers who embark on a train journey through Rajasthan hoping to find answers to their fractured lives and relationships. They haven't spoken to each other for a year since their father's funeral.
One has just broken up, the other, it is hinted, tried to kill himself and the third is going to have a child but he thinks he might prefer a divorce. And did I mention that their mother abandoned them to become a nun in India. It's sad but also funny.
The brothers go everywhere with mountains of custom made Louis Vuitton luggage. One never ever wears shoes while the other wears 3000-dollar loafers.
They get thrown off the train and eventually end up on a crowded bus. When a man asks what they are doing in such a godforsaken place, the eldest replies with a straight face, we were on a spiritual journey but it didn't pan out.
Anderson's sense of caprice and deadpan irony makes Darjeeling Limited charming but also limited. Of course India here is merely an exotic space for Americans to play angst-ridden games in but I don't have a problem with that.
After all, Bollywood is always using New York or London as an exotic space for Indians to work out their problems in. What bothered me more was the emotional void at the center of the film. In the end, as you watch the brothers leave their physical and emotional baggage behind, you wonder, what did all of this add up to? Anderson has also made a companion piece to Darjeeling Limited.
It's a short film called Hotel Chevalier, which works as a kind of preface. In it, we see the youngest brother and his one time girlfriend together in a hotel room in France. There is much left unsaid and unexplained but heartache lingers over the film.
It's terrifying to see two people so intimate and still so alone. Hotel Chevalier is far more effective than the feature but unfortunately it doesn't play theatrically.
So I recommend that you see Darjeeling Limited but on DVD. That way, you'll get two for the price of one.