Once again, director Wes Anderson succeeds in sharing his charming and wistful universe in The Darjeeling Limited. From the gorgeous visuals to the pitch perfect, subtle acting, this film delivers far more than Life Aquatic.

Set in India, three brothers, Jack (Jason Schwartzman), Francis (Owen Wilson), and Peter (Adrian Brody) go on a spiritual quest, which turns out to be a search for their estranged mother, secretly planned by Francis, the eldest. Along the way they stop at temples, buy poisonous snakes, drag a full set of leather luggage through India, take a multitude of nameless drugs, get thrown off the train, save children from drowning (though they lose one), and reconnect, sniping and sharing, with each other.

What Wes Anderson, and his co-writers Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman, do so well in this film is tell us enough without over doing it. We know these brothers have been out of touch since their father’s funeral, and that they haven’t seen their mother in years, but not why. We learn how the father died, but not why he and the mother split; not why these sons are so sad and damaged. And that’s beautiful, because what matters is not the past, but the present and how these characters deal with it. So many writer/directors feel the need to stick in expository, when what really matters are truth and emotion.

The three actors carry the film with style and aplomb. Jason Schwartzman is growing into a subtle and varied actor. Owen Wilson tends to play similar characters in all of Anderson’s films, but no one else could do those roles better. Adrian Brody deserves another award for this performance, though probably a supporting one. He was understated and sad and funny; all the best things about a Wes Anderson film. Angelica Huston did more in thirteen minutes than most actors do in two hours.

Esthetically, Wes Anderson puts you into another world. A bourgeois fantasy of color and pattern. Lending to this were the beautifully cut suits of Marc Jacobs and luggage from Louis Vuitton.

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As metaphorical as Anderson’s world is, he doesn’t play coy; he gives you the messages clear and easy. When the train gets lost Francis says, “We’re not lost, we just haven’t located our selves yet.” And throughout the film these boys drag their father’s full set of leather luggage, his literal baggage, around India and free themselves by letting it all go at the end.

While it may not be for everyone, The Darjeeling Limited catapults itself to the top of my list so far for 2007.

I can’t wait for The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson’s next film. It will be interesting to see how he adapts Roald Dahl‘s original material.

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