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The Darjeeling Limited (Hindi: द दार्जिलिंग लिमिटेड) is a 2007 comedy-drama film directed by Wes Anderson, and starring Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman. It was written by Anderson, Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola. The film also features Waris Ahluwalia, Amara Karan, Barbet Schroeder, and Anjelica Huston, with Natalie Portman, Camilla Rutherford, Irrfan Khan and Bill Murray in cameo roles.
A North American businessman in India (Bill Murray) runs after but fails to catch his train as it pulls out of a station in India. He is beaten to it by a younger man, Peter Whitman (Adrien Brody), who is carrying heavy luggage. Peter reunites with his brothers Francis (Owen Wilson) and Jack (Jason Schwartzman) on the train called "The Darjeeling Limited", which is traveling across India. The brothers have not seen each other since their father's funeral a year earlier in New York.
Francis, the oldest of the three brothers, has planned their journey in advance. The journey is supposed to culminate in a reunion with their mother, who is running a convent in the foothills of the Himalayas. Francis conceals the real reason for the trip, telling his brothers that they are making the journey for spiritual self-discovery. Francis' brothers are not convinced of this, and get annoyed with Francis' controlling behaviour such as choosing from the menu for them, which turns out to be a trait inherited from their mother. With his assistant Brendan's help, Francis draws up a detailed itinerary for the trip. He also takes his brothers' passports to prevent them from getting off the train too early. Francis, who was badly injured in a motorcycle accident, wears bandages on his head throughout the film. The youngest Whitman, Jack, has written a short story which is strikingly similar to his own life. However, he denies those similarities. Jack obsessively listens to the messages on his ex-girlfriend's answering machine at every stop the train makes. Moreover, he has a fling with the train's beautiful stewardess Rita (Amara Karan), whom Francis nicknames "Sweet Lime" for the drinks she repeatedly offers.
Peter, the middle brother, justifies his keeping many of his late father's possessions, including his spectacles, which he wears even though they are not the right prescription, by claiming that he was their father's favorite. His wife, Alice (Camilla Rutherford), is expecting a baby, but Peter fears that their relationship may end in divorce.
At first, the three brothers get high on a cocktail of locally made drugs and pharmaceutical products. In their trips through the Indian provinces, they visit temples and markets. At one market, Francis has one of his $3000 loafers stolen by a shoe-shine boy, and Peter buys a cobra, which later escapes from its transport container. This escape results in the brothers being confined to their cabins. Francis and Peter get into a fight over Peter being the "favorite" and Jack uses the pepper spray he bought in the village to mace his brothers until they stop fighting. This is the last straw for the train's Chief Steward (Waris Ahluwalia), who is also Rita's boyfriend, and whom the three brothers have repeatedly annoyed. He throws the three of them off the train with all their luggage, leaving them in the desert. The three brothers become close again and even perform one of Francis' spiritual rituals. On their way back to civilization, they see three young boys get into trouble while attempting to pull a raft across a fast-flowing river. Jack and Francis rescue two of the boys, but Peter fails to save the third. This affects Peter deeply. In the boys' village, the three brothers are befriended by the villagers and attend the boy's funeral.
(In a flashback,) the three brothers and Alice are on the way to their father's funeral. They stop on the way to pick up their father's Porsche from the repair shop and take it with them, but the car isn't ready yet so the brothers leave.
(Back in the present,) the Whitmans get on a bus, which takes them from the village to the airport. The brothers stop for a bathroom break, during which Francis removes his bandages to shave, which reveals a number of large, bright scars on his face, but his brothers offer marginal reserved comfort. However, just as they are getting on the plane, they change their minds and decide to go and visit their mother, even though she has sent them a message telling them that their visit is not convenient. The three brothers travel to their mother's convent. The reunion is very emotional (it is learned that Francis's accident was, in fact, a suicide attempt) and the family is reunited for a time. The next morning, the three brothers find that the mother has again left her family and her children.
On the way back the three brothers run for a just-departed train, and jettison all their baggage on the railway line as they and some porters run after the train. Jack reads his new short story, which tells the story of his meeting with his ex-girlfriend in the Hotel Chevalier, and gives in, accepting that it is representative of his own life.
Francis wants to give the passports back to his brothers, but they decide that they are safer with him. The Chief Steward (who has kept Peter's snake as a pet), the businessman from the beginning, and Jack's ex-girlfriend (Natalie Portman) look out contemplatively.
Anderson also wrote and directed the 2007 short film Hotel Chevalier, starring Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman. The 13-minute film acts as a prologue to The Darjeeling Limited. In it, Jack's ex-girlfriend turns up unexpectedly at his hotel room in Paris, and they spend the night together. Originally attached to festival screenings of The Darjeeling Limited, it was removed during the limited theatrical release and instead made available on Apple Inc.'s iTunes Store as a free download. On October 26, 2007, Hotel Chevalier was removed from iTunes in favor of releasing it in theaters with the wide release of The Darjeeling Limited.
- Owen Wilson as Francis Whitman
- Adrien Brody as Peter Whitman
- Jason Schwartzman as Jack Whitman
- Anjelica Huston as Patricia
- Waris Ahluwalia as The Chief Steward
- Amara Karan as Rita
- Natalie Portman as Jack's ex
- Wallace Wolodarsky as Brendan
- Bill Murray as The Businessman
- Camilla Rutherford as Alice Whitman
- Barbet Schroeder as The Mechanic
- Irrfan Khan as The Father
Themes and motifs
The Darjeeling Limited includes many of Anderson's signature themes and styles, such as despair, abandonment, sibling relationships, a privileged class who rarely work, and timeless fashions and props. Anderson has revealed that The River by Jean Renoir, the films of Satyajit Ray and documentaries on India by Louis Malle were his inspirations for this movie. The film was dedicated to Satyajit Ray and makes allusions to him and his work (e.g., the portrait of Ray in the compartment of the train Bengal Lancer towards the end of the film). In an homage shot, the three Whitman brothers are arranged in a row by the side of the train after it has broken down. This is a reference to an earlier Anderson film, Bottle Rocket, where characters Dignan, Anthony and Bob are arranged as such for the cover.
The Darjeeling Limited made its world premiere on 3 September 2007 at the Venice Film Festival, where it was in competition for the Golden Lion and won the Little Golden Lion. The film's North American premiere was on 28 September 2007 at the 45th annual New York Film Festival, where it was the opening film. It then opened in a limited commercial release in North America on 5 October 2007. The film opened across North America on 26 October 2007 and in the UK on 23 November 2007, in both territories preceded in showings by Hotel Chevalier. The film grossed $134,938 in two theaters in its opening weekend for an average of $67,469 for each theater. The film (widescreen edition) was released on DVD 26 February 2008 on Fox Searchlight, with features limited to a behind-the-scenes documentary, theatrical trailer, and the inclusion of Hotel Chevalier.
The film was re-released by the Criterion Collection on 12 October 2010 on both DVD and Blu-Ray, the latter being the film's first release on the format.
The film received generally favorable reviews. As of November 2008, on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 66% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 158 reviews, with a consensus among critics that the film "will satisfy Wes Anderson fans." On Metacritic, the film had an average score of 67 out of 100, based on 35 reviews.
Chris Cabin of Filmcritic.com gave the film 4 stars out of 5 and described Anderson's film as "the auteur's best work to date." Entertainment Weekly film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum gave the film a "B+" and said "This is psychological as well as stylistic familiar territory for Anderson after Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. But there's a startling new maturity in Darjeeling, a compassion for the larger world that busts the confines of the filmmaker's miniaturist instincts." A.O. Scott of The New York Times said that the film "is unstintingly fussy, vain and self-regarding. But it is also a treasure: an odd, flawed, but nonetheless beautifully handmade object as apt to win affection as to provoke annoyance. You might say that it has sentimental value."
Timothy Knight of Reel.com gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and said "Although The Darjeeling Limited pales in comparison to Anderson's best film, Rushmore (1998), it's still a vast improvement over his last, and worst film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)." Nathan Lee of The Village Voice wrote "A companion piece to Tenenbaums more than a step in new directions, Darjeeling is a movie about people trapped in themselves and what it takes to get free — a movie, quite literally, about letting go of your baggage." The Christian Science Monitor critic Peter Rainer said "Wes Anderson doesn't make movies like anybody else, which is sometimes a good thing and sometimes not. His latest, The Darjeeling Limited, combines what's best and worst about him." New York Magazine critic David Edelstein said that the film is "hit and miss, but its tone of lyric melancholy is remarkably sustained."
Nick Schager of Slant Magazine gave the film 2 stars out of 4 and said "the ingredients that have increasingly defined Wes Anderson's films...seem, with The Darjeeling Limited, to have become something like limitations." Emanuel Levy gave the film a "C" and said "Going to India and collaborating with two new writers do little to invigorate or reenergize director Wes Anderson in The Darjeeling Limited, because he imposes the same themes, self-conscious approach, and serio-comic sensibility of his previous films on the new one, confining his three lost brothers not only within his limited world, but also within a limited space, a train compartment." Levy also said "after reaching a nadir with his last feature, the $50 million folly The Life Aquatic of Steve Zisou [sic], which was an artistic and commercial flop, Anderson could only go upward." Dana Stevens of Slate magazine wrote, "Maybe Anderson needs to shoot someone else's screenplay, to get outside his own head for a while and into another's sensibility. It's telling that his funniest and liveliest recent work was a commercial for American Express." Kyle Smith of the New York Post gave the film 11⁄2 stars out of 4 and said "At a stage in Anderson’s career when he should be moving on, he is instead circling back."
Glenn Kenny of Premiere named it the 5th best film of 2007, and Mike Russell of The Oregonian named it the 8th best film of 2007.
The soundtrack features three songs by The Kinks, "Powerman", "Strangers" and "This Time Tomorrow", all from the 1970 album, Lola versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, as well as "Play With Fire" by The Rolling Stones. "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)" by Peter Sarstedt is prominently featured as well, being played within the film more than once. Most of the album, however, features film score music composed by Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray, Merchant-Ivory films, and other artists from Indian cinema. Director Wes Anderson has said that it was Satyajit Ray's movies that made him want to come to India. The works include "Charu's Theme", from Ray's 1964 film, Charulata, film-score cues by Shankar Jaikishan and classic works by Claude Debussy and Ludwig van Beethoven. The film ends with the 1969 song "Les Champs Élysées" by French singer Joe Dassin, who was the son of blacklisted American director Jules Dassin.
Much of the film was shot in Jodhpur, Rajasthan. The Himalaya scenes were shot in Udaipur, and the opening scene of the film was also shot on the streets of Jodhpur. The International Airport shown near the end is the old terminal building of Udaipur Airport. The scenes set in New York were shot in Long Island City.
Indian Railways does not operate a train named The Darjeeling Limited, although there is a train named "Darjeeling Mail" that operates between Sealdah and New Jalpaiguri, the nearest broad gauge station to Darjeeling; see Darjeeling Himalayan Railway and Darjeeling Mail.
* Reading not-so-peachy films about this film, peculiarly enough, makes me feel, well...a little offended! (Yes, I really must love Wes films). Being the first of his films that I saw, I feel a constant tug towards it, and it often alternates with '...Tenenbaums' for the prestigious place of my favourite Wes film.
This film is so stylish, slick and heart-felt, I don't understand how anyone could ever dislike it, well, to the extremes. The cast is perfect, and too, has inspired me to travel to India one day. Really, it's just a beautiful film in every way.