The Darjeeling Limited 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 businessman in India (Bill Murray) fails to catch his train as it pulls out of a station. He is beaten to it by a younger man, Peter Whitman (Adrien Brody). 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 prior.
Francis has planned their journey in advance. The journey is supposed to culminate in a reunion with their mother (Anjelica Huston), but Francis tells his brothers that they are making the journey for spiritual self-discovery. He tells them of a motorcycle crash he was in, explaining the bandages on his head. He says he wants to reconnect with his brothers; Jack and Peter are not convinced of this, and get annoyed with Francis' controlling behavior, such as ordering food for them. The three mistrust one another, with each hiding some secret: Jack, the youngest, is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend and plans to leave the trip early; Peter is hiding the fact that his wife is seven months pregnant; Francis, the oldest is hiding the true purpose of the journey.
With the help of his assistant Brendan, Francis draws up a strict itinerary for the trip and takes his brothers' passports to prevent them from getting off the train too early. Jack, an author, has written a short story which is similar to his own life, although he denies the similarities. At every train stop, he listens to the messages on his ex-girlfriend's answering machine. Moreover, he has a fling with the train's stewardess Rita (Amara Karan). Peter has been taking and keeping many of his late father's personal possessions (his glasses, his keys), and justifies this by claiming that he was their father's favorite. His wife, Alice (Camilla Rutherford), is expecting a baby, but Peter assumes that their relationship will end in divorce, despite acknowledging that they love each other.
In their trips through the Indian provinces, Peter buys a cobra, which later escapes from its transport container, in their compartment. This escape results in the brothers being confined to their cabins in the train. Francis eventually reveals, following an epiphany, that they are on the way to see their mother, who is living as a nun in a convent in the foothills of the Himalayas. Peter and Jack are not pleased, with the former accusing Francis of knowing that they wouldn't have come to India had they known the true purpose of their journey. Francis and Peter shortly after get into a fight over the latter taking their father's things, and Jack maces them in an attempt to stop the fight. During the struggle, Jack ends up breaking through a glass door. The train's Chief Steward (Waris Ahluwalia), whom the three brothers have repeatedly annoyed, throws the three of them off the train with all their luggage, their father's eleven monogrammed suitcases and bags. Francis also alienates Brendan by making fun of his alopecia, who quits, getting back on the train after giving Francis a letter from their mother. Jack is sad to leave Rita; she asks him what is wrong with him, and he replies that he is "not sure" and will "tell her the next time he sees her". In her letter, their mother asks that they don't visit her, and return in the Spring, citing a number of vague reasons. The brothers decide to leave India, go their separate ways, and never return. On their way back to civilization, the brothers see three young boys fall into a river while attempting to pull a raft across it. Jack and Francis rescue two of the boys, but Peter fails to save the third, who dies. This affects Peter deeply. In the boys' small village, the three brothers spend the night and are befriended by the villagers. The next day, they attend the boy's funeral.
In a flashback, the three brothers and Alice are on their way to the funeral of the brothers' father. They stop to pick up their father's Porsche from the repair shop, but the car is not ready. It is revealed that their father's death was a result of him getting hit by a taxi, and that their mother did not attend the funeral. Jack forgoes the funeral and impulsively skips town for Paris.
Back in the present, the brothers get on a bus, which takes them from the village to the airport. At the airport, each makes a phone call: Francis attempts to rehire Brendan; Peter calls Alice (whom he had not told he was going to India) and learns that their child is to be a boy; Jack learns that his ex-girlfriend is going to meet him in Italy. Before boarding the plane, they rip up their tickets and decide to go visit their mother regardless. The reunion is very emotional and she is surprised but happy to see them. Francis offhandedly reveals that his motorcycle accident was, in fact, a suicide attempt. Their mother shows the same controlling behavior as Francis, deciding on their individual breakfasts for them. A dream sequence shows the various characters of the film aboard a train. Upon waking the next morning, the three brothers find that their mother has left, after leaving them their breakfasts. The sisters inform them that she "goes away" sometimes. They decide not to wait for her to return.
On the way to the train station, Jack reads the ending of his newest short story (which mimics the closing lines of Hotel Chevalier) and finally accepts that it is based on his own life; he also states that he will not be going to Italy to meet his ex-girlfriend. At the station, the three brothers run for another luxury train called "Bengal Lancer" and gleefully discard all their father's suitcases and bags on the railway platform as they run after the departing train. On board, Francis wants to give the passports back to his brothers, but the brothers decide that the passports are safer with him.
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 (Natalie Portman) 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 Sister Patricia Whitman
- 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).
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.
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 "Aux Champs ÃlysÃ©es" by French singer Joe Dassin, who was the son of blacklisted American director Jules Dassin.
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 April 2015, on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 68% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 188 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. The film has a rating of 7.2 out of 10 on the Internet Movie Database.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave 3.5 out of 4, calling the film's Indian context as one of its main highlights. Ebert singled out Anderson's script, which, according to Ebert, "uses India not in a touristy way, but as a backdrop that is very, very there.". 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 â" 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 11â2 stars out of 4 and said "At a stage in Andersonâs career when he should be moving on, he is instead circling back."
Glenn Kenny of Premiere named it the fifth best film of 2007, and Mike Russell of The Oregonian named it the eighth best film of 2007.
- The Darjeeling Limited at Fox Searchlight
- The Darjeeling Limited at the Internet Movie Database
- The Darjeeling Limited at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Darjeeling Limited at Box Office Mojo