The Darjeeling Express

NOVEMBER 28, 2007

6.5/10. Another of Anderson’s whimsical outings with many of his regular cast in tow (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, and even Bill Murray there for a cameo). This was far better than Anderson’s previous effort (The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou), which despite having what seemed like the right ingredients completely failed to cohere into anything interesting or funny, but doesn’t quite reach the brilliant heights attained in The Royal Tenenbaums.

After a slightly mystifying ‘short’ featuring Schwartzman and Natalie Portman (as his girlfriend) in a hotel room in Paris, the film gets into its swing as the three Whitman brothers begin their travels across India in the eponymous Darjeeling Express. Despite Owen Wilson’s exhortations regarding ‘bonding’ the existing tensions between the brothers immediately surface, and there’s much to interest us (where are they going, will they actually connect etc) as well as some brilliantly funny moments (the best of which involves a brotherly quarrel and some pepper spray).

However once they’re booted off the train things don’t quite fit together so well. While the sudden twists and turns, and general kookiness, continue there’s a growing sense that they don’t really lead anywhere – either in terms of conventional plot of in terms of the characters themselves. While, in this kind of enterprise this isn’t necessarily a fatal fault it does lend the second half of the film a slightly deflationary aspect, and by the end when the brothers, instead of getting on their planned flight home, repeat the film’s initial slow-motion dash to catch a train, one starts to feel that the writers had simply begun to run out of ideas.