Being a Wes Anderson production, ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ (2007) couldn't be anything other than a film about a familial relationship, one that is completely dysfunctional (of course). Moving away from the 'bad' father routine, this time Anderson absorbs us into the world of three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman - he's the young lad in previous feature 'Rushmore', in case you couldn't place him) as they attempt to repair the f(l)ailing bond between them.
The clue's in the title as to where this emotional journey takes place... India. Not just India though (if there could be such a thing), the film is set aboard a cramped train (the Darjeeling Limited); the two in conjunction allow for breathtaking shots of the country (in a similar vein to 'Slumdog Millionaire' (Danny Boyle, 2008), no doubt), with regular confrontations between the siblings.
At first, as the audience learns that their father passed away a year or so ago, it seems that the three of them are on a voyage of discovery about one another, intent on returning to their previous 'closeness' whilst coming to terms with their individual torments (a pregnant wife, a manipulative ex-girlfriend etc.).
As the plot thickens, however, the eldest of the three (Wilson) reveals the real reason for the journey - to confront their mother (Anjelica Huston), who has run away to become a nun in the Himalayas. It is here that we learn why his desire to reconnect to his family is so fervent; his, somewhat bizarre, injuries are the result of a failed suicide attempt (all the more pertinent because of Wilson's personal life at the time of release). This desire, in part, is never fully achieved as their mother does a runner in the night (or perhaps she was eaten by the man-eating tiger?), leaving them back where they started, mentally albeit in beautiful surroundings.
It's perhaps this part of the film that left me feeling a little empty. I'm not a fan of the overly sentimental endings of, shall we say, more Hollywood productions and am all for the character driven narratives, but I wouldn't mind something happening... If it weren’t for Wilson’s outstanding performance, which far outshines the rest of the casts, the film would be redundant.
Anderson's films have always been highly stylised, and to great effect, and 'The Darjeeling Limited' is no different... but that's just the problem. There's no doubt that it's aesthetically astounding, but it's fallen in to the trap of style over substance. Hopefully 'Fantastic Mr Fox' (due for release later this year) delivers...