"Fractured Soul Searching in India"
What You Need To Know:
The photography is beautiful in THE DARJEELING LIMITED, and the many characters engaging. The problem at the core, regrettably, is that the spiritual journey the brothers undertake is a journey without a spirit, much less the Spirit of Truth, who is Jesus Christ. The answers they come up with along the way, though based on common sense, are not lasting, nor meaningful. To make matters worse, the movie is sadly marred by extramarital sex, obscene language, and abuse of prescription drugs. Though the movie extols kindness and compassion, its pagan worldview is mixed, subjective and ultimately empty.
(PaPa, C, FR, B, LL, V, S, N, A, DD, M) Subjective mixed pagan worldview as protagonists seek spirituality in India with slight Christian elements as portrayed by the protagonists’ mother in the role of a Catholic nun plus Hindu elements and New Age elements and some moral qualities about compassion and helping others; 21 obscenities, two strong profanity and one light profanity; fist fighting, hitting, wrestling, and accidental drowning when boat tips over; implied sexual intercourse and some sexual comments; graphic depiction of a female’s buttocks; drinking in a social setting; smoking and using cough medicine to get high; and, narcissism and hedonism rebuked.
Set against the always exotic, and often intriguing, backdrop of greater India, THE DARJEEELING LIMITED brings together three angst-ridden brothers. The brothers lost their father in a traffic accident a year earlier and have not been able to find peace within themselves, nor with each other, since then. Francis Whitman (played by Owen Wilson) has arranged for his two other brothers, Jack and Peter (Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody), to meet him. Together they embark on a spiritual journey through the heart of India, which hopefully will put them all on an even keel again.
Once aboard the train, however, the three brothers quickly discover that it will take a lot more than a stop at every religious shrine they can find along the way to begin to change their spoiled rotten personalities and self-indulgent quirks. Getting high on a plethora of Indian prescribed drugs, pandering to their passions, and distrusting each other at every turn does not help matters either.
After suffering a series of self inflicted mishaps the brothers come close to throwing in the towel and going home. It is at that very moment that Francis pops the “big” surprise on them: their mother who had disappeared after their father’s death is actually living in India. She is now a Catholic nun and is doing mission work at the foot of the Himalayas, and Francis has arranged for them to visit her. Despite the many obstacles, and setbacks they have faced until then, but imbued with a new determined sense of purpose, the brothers decide to continue, no matter how tortuous and unpredictable the road ahead may seem.
Ten minutes into THE DARJEELING LIMITED, I had to ask the person seated next to me if I was at the right screening because the movie was nothing like it had been presented in the trailers. As it turned out, I was watching a mini movie within the movie, which also had the immediate effect of reminding the audience this was indeed another one of Director Wes Anderson’s many peculiar cinematic creations. Those that have grown fond of his unusual style in such movies as BOTTLE ROCKET, THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS, RUSHMORE, and THE LIFE AQUATIC will no doubt enjoy this movie as well. Those who prefer substance over style will find it more of a light passing fluff than a transcendental revelation, and for a movie set in India, and its myriad places of worship to millions of gods, that could be deemed rather odd in itself. The failure to make it a more meaningful presentation should not be blamed on actors Schwartzman, Brody and Wilson, who record strong, endearing, likeable performances, nor the Indian cast who are all excellent in their respective roles. Even a cameo by Bill Murray, and the time tested acting capabilities of Angelica Huston as the Whitman matriarch, is also a smart addition to the overall production. The movie has its charms, no doubt, and it will bring a few chuckles here and there to anyone who sees it. The photography is beautiful, the editing is tight, and the many characters engaging.
The problem at the core, regrettably, is that the spiritual journey the brothers undertake is a journey without a spirit, and the answers they come up with along the way, although based in common sense, are not lasting, nor meaningful. To make matters worse, the movie is sadly marred by extramarital sex, obscene language, and prescription drug abuse. In this context, the solutions the main characters find are just feel good for the moment, and as such leave the audience feeling exactly that, good for the moment, but ultimately leading to the realization that tomorrow it’s back to square one.