The Set of 400: #319 – My Favorite Meal Ordering

Today! Because I don’t know about his face, but I think his brain might be pretty traumatized –

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

Directed Wes Anderson

Starring Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman (x2), Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray (x2), Kumar Pallana, Waris Ahluwalia, Amara Karan, Irrfan Khan, Barbet Schroeder, Natalie Portman (x2)

In many ways the forgotten Wes Anderson movie, The Darjeeling Limited is a terrific little character study of brothers Peter, Francis, and Jack on a spiritual journey across India that turns out to be much more. As it unfolds, the struggle each brother has gone through in the year since their father’s death gets magnified and fleshed out, building toward a reunion with their mother, played by a wonderful Angelica Huston.

In ’07 this movie had a decent run, for an Anderson film, and had a bit of attention from critics at year end, but it tends to get swallowed in any discussion of the director’s films, largely I feel because of the size of it. Even though it’s the rare sweeping travelogue film in his universe, Darjeeling is a relatively small movie, focusing largely just on the brothers (all giving tremendous performances, with Wilson’s frantic, shattered Francis standing out) and not a litany of movie stars in minor roles, like virtually all other Anderson vehicles. It also occupies the chronological spot between Life Aquatic (more talked about, considering it first followed Rushmore and Tenenbaums), and Fantastic Mr. Fox (Anderson’s first foray into animation), leaving it as the less remarkable middle film.

And this is largely unfair – while I recognize it doesn’t hit the heights of his first movies, or the period directly following this, when it seems his style really solidified into a consistent thing, there is a lot to like in Darjeeling. Maybe it’s not as funny as some of the other Andersons, and maybe it’s a little too much of a downer in the middle stretch, but the ending still pays off well, and the script is typically tremendous from Anderson, Schwartzman, and frequent collaborator Roman Coppola. And if you want to really get symbolic, maybe the whole point of the movie was to get a little smaller after the massive Life Aquatic. Figure, the first scene of Darjeeling shows Steve Zissou himself, Bill Murray, hurrying to catch the train, and missing it, with the focus then shifting to Francis, Jack, and Peter.

So with the handful of Ten Best Lists the film appeared on, I would be remiss to not acknowledge the movie for its Best Natalie Portman Easter Egg, the existence of the short film Hotel Chevalier, which functions as a prequel of sorts to Darjeeling, featuring Schwartzman’s Jack and Portman as a character only blink-and-you-miss-it cameo’d in Darjeeling and listed as Jack’s Ex-Girlfriend.

Frequent co-stars Schwartzman and Murray join the Two-Timers club today, following their list work in #372’s Walk Hard and #328’s The Man Who Knew Too Little, respectively, while Portman also joins the guild after her elaborate costumery in #332’s Star Wars Episode I.

Schwartzman and Murray, bookending Anderson

Hotel Chevalier, filmed at the Hotel Raphael in Paris

Coming Monday! You got me draggin’ your heavy ass through the burning desert with your dreadlocks sticking out the back of my parachute –

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