I remember watching The Darjeeling Limited a few years back when it first came out. For some reason, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did watching it recently. Maybe it had something to do with me being a lot younger then. Or maybe it’s because two years ago, my older brothers moved out of the house. Both live abroad, and watching the film made me reminisce on all the good times we had. I guess this film is particularly important to me because I can relate to it on almost every level. My family resembles the Whitman family, with the exceptions of a dead father and an absent mother (my mom is more like Diane Keaton in Because I Said So – overbearingly protective and involved, but that’s why we love her).
I really must commend the actors and the writers in their performances and character formation of the Whitman brothers. Coming from a family with three sons, I couldn’t help scrutinizing the personalities of each character. Much to my pleasure, I found myself enthralled with the actors’ portrayals. Owen Wilson as Francis reminded me of my eldest brother, Anton – caring, sensitive, and dutiful. Adrien Brody as Peter was definitely my brother Mike – reckless, carefree, sentimental, and commitment averse. Finally, Jason Schwartzman as Jack was my absolute favorite. Imaginative and restless, he constantly finds himself tagging along with his older brothers and being dragged in to issues.
Jack’s character (although I may be a little biased when I say this) is probably the most complex of the Whitman brothers. As a youngest brother, I can relate to his possible hardship of having to establish his own identity. Being the third installment, I had to assert my own uniqueness. Although my brothers are great examples to follow, I had to be careful not to wander too closely, lest I walk in their shadows. The other thing which makes me say that Jack is the most complex is that he gets a short film of his own – Hotel Chevalier. This short film doesn’t have much, if anything at all, to do with the plot of The Darjeeling Limited, but it does give us a peek into Jack’s character. The main film would not have been the same without this short installment, but personally, I think the parts should have been reversed. I watched Hotel Chevalier AFTER seeing The Darjeeling Limited, and I remember feeling this somewhat nostalgic sensation. It was like watching the Star Wars saga in the order of its release. For three installments (the fourth to sixth episodes), the characters make all these references and it’s up to the viewer to make sense of all these incomplete bits of information. Fast forward a couple of decades, and everything adds up nicely after the first three chapters have been completed. Plus, it adds more depth to Jack’s character. If you only watch The Darjeeling Limited, Jack is a bit of a mystery compared with the other two. He’s more reserved with his feelings and his actions seem consistently inconsistent. Watching Hotel Chevalier afterwards gives the viewers a better glimpse of Jack, and suddenly, all those “girlfriend” and “Italy” references add up. Not everyone would enjoy it this way, but I most certainly did.
Many scenes in this film seem to be written right out of the life stories of my brothers and myself. Between traveling abroad, getting caught in the middle of their skirmishes, passing messages between the two, and receiving unwarranted girlfriend advice, The Darjeeling Limited hits very close to home. Although the setting and the characters themselves seem entirely outrageous, the one lesson this film delivers that I can attest to is that the bonds of biological brotherhood can never be broken.