Had blaring news of Owen Wilson’s personal crisis not reached his public so close to the release of The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson’s picaresque story of three brothers (Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody) who carry their emotional baggage on a train voyage across India would still resonate with vivid sadness. His head outlandishly bandaged in contradiction with the insouciance of his surfer-blond hair, Wilson’s character is the one sibling among the three who has actively tried to hurt himself in response to family unhappiness: Father is dead, and a drifty, self-absorbed mother (Anjelica Huston) ignores her sons while searching for her own bliss in a Himalayan nunnery. Now he is trying to reestablish kinship, and he’s up against resistance. Estranged from one another, each son is a quirky piece of work in his own right; together on a train, they’re a rolling family-therapy experiment.
This is familiar psychological as well as stylistic territory for Anderson after Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. But there’s a startling new maturity in Darjeeling, a compassion for the larger world that busts the confines of the filmmaker’s miniaturist instincts. (A jolting, unironic plot turn may even shock.) I don’t know which came first — inspiration provided by the beauty and complexity of India, or an attraction to India because of a wiser heart. But either way, foreign travel is a growth opportunity for these passengers. B+