It’s time for another family reunion in The Darjeeling Limited, the story of three estranged brothers who take a trip through India in a feeble attempt at bonding. But when things start going wrong, they’re forced to put their differences aside and face their problems head first, making the best out of the situation and undergoing unexpected changes in the process.
One of the most eye-catching features of this film is the diversity in terms of colour, which suits its exotic location. Whereas Anderson’s previous work stuck to a well defined palette, this one stands out with its bursts of vibrant blues, deep reds, bright yellows and lush greens against the earthy tones of the desert.
Since a good part of the film’s action takes place inside a train and through crowded cities, the scene composition is often cluttered and cramped in its nature. However, this makes for a nice contrast between the congested scenes and the wide shots of spacious landscapes. Anderson also takes advantage of tracking shots to show off a wider expanse of terrain and give us a good feel of the city and its foreign vibe, as seen in the clip below.
Something worth noting is how the transition from the present to the past is employed during the film’s only flashback. The three brothers, while sitting side by side in a vehicle on the eve of a funeral, thought back to a similar situation in another place and time. Thus, through the clever use of matching visual cues, the scene suddenly cuts to the past when they were similarly sat side by side in a vehicle on the eve of their father’s funeral. It’s quick, effective and swift.
But let’s talk about the story. The Darjeeling Limited is about bringing people together, although it also touches on coping with loss and learning to trust others. The three brothers come from a wealthy but dysfunctional family, which is often the case in Anderson’s work. Not only are they dealing with the loss of their father, but also their mother, who decided to take off to a convent and become a nun not long after his death.
So, in order to have regain some semblance of a family once more, the elder of the three (Owen Wilson) arranges the trip to India in hopes of growing closer, the problem being their poor communication, lack of trust, and love-hate relationship.
The story seems to fall into Anderson’s usual pattern of progressing at a steady pace, lazily leading up to a lull in the action somewhere near the middle, but proceeding to pick up in the last third of the film. I can see how some might begin to find this convention boring, but not all stories need suffer at its expense. Such is the case with The Darjeeling Limited, since it’s more about the journey than anything else, making it the kind of tale that flourishes in being allowed to simmer.