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Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman in, Darjeeling Ltd


The Darjeeling Limited
cast: : Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Natalie Portman, and Anjelica Houston

director: Wes Anderson

88 minutes (15) 2007
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by J.C. Hartley
The unbridled joy engendered by intelligent filmmaking. Not perhaps to everyone's taste, Wes Anderson's take on family and generation gap strife over the course of film's like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, sparkles with wit and underplayed pathos. Anderson has gathered a repertory company of actors like the Wilson brothers, Bill Murray (seen here in a for-the-hell-of-it cameo), Anjelica Houston, and his co-writer on The Darjeeling Limited, with Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman.

An opening short Hotel Chevalier, which may be viewed as a separate feature, introduces Schwartzman's character Jack L. Whitman, gone to ground in a Parisian hotel, where he is tracked down by his girlfriend (Nathalie Portman, Star Wars episodes 1-3). They reach some sort of reconciliation, or truce, and the film leaves one wondering if this is a prologue or an epilogue.

Hotel Chevalier was a prologue. Jack is reunited with his brothers Peter (Adrien Brody, The Pianist) and Francis (Owen Wilson, Night At The Museum) on the train Darjeeling Limited, crossing the Indian subcontinent. The brothers haven't seen each other since their father's funeral. Francis is recovering from a horrific motorcycle accident, and has used his considerable financial resources to assemble his siblings for a journey of self and spiritual discovery, and to track down their mother, who has taken orders, and is in a convent at the foot of the Himalayas since missing the funeral of her spouse. The brothers share powerful non-prescription painkillers, share secrets, and pair off in pacts of brothers against brother. Peter's wife is pregnant, Francis may be gay, and his accident a suicide attempt, Jack is predatory hitting on Rita (Amara Karan, St Trinian's), the train's stewardess. The brothers are put off the train when their mutual antagonism coupled with a deadly snake becomes too disruptive. How they come to terms with their personal and family history is played out against a background of tragedy and reconciliation.

This film looks fantastic, and the cinematography is by Anderson regular Robert D. Yeoman; the film sounds fantastic, with tracks by the Kinks, and the 'Stones, with Indian music sourced from the soundtracks of Indian films. The brothers meet up with their mother, a hypnotic Anjelica Houston (Martian Child), and possibly they lose her. She is not present the morning after their reunion, although she promised she would be. The brothers are told that she often goes off for days on end, and they accept that, but a man-eating tiger is on the prowl, she showed them its tracks, and just possibly, although the possibility seems not to occur to anyone in the film, it may have taken her. Anderson has made a handful of wonderful well-written films that do not insult your intelligence. Quite what his up-coming adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox will entail remains to be seen.

The Darjeeling Limited DVD includes an on-location making-of featurette, which pays tribute to the skill and artistry of the local crews and production staff, and examines the creation of the train The Darjeeling Limited.

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