I'm not of the Wes Anderson-can-do-no-wrong school. I loved Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, blew lukewarm on The Royal Tanenbaums (which was often wonderful, but also awful in places), and froze out Life Aquatic. So I am happy to report that Darjeeling Limited is the best thing Anderson has done since Rushmore.
Darjeeling is gorgeous to look at, full of the hum and vibrancy of India, quirky, delightfully detailed, and often funny. The script by Anderson, Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola--all members of the extended younger generation Coppola "family"--hangs together and delivers a satisfying conclusion. It ties up nicely. Is Anderson one of our deep thinkers? No. But this movie is a satisfying entertainment.
I had fun at my Variety screening series Q & A with Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Adrien Brody. Anderson decided to incorporate Schwartzman's character in the short Hotel Chevalier, which he shot while they were writing the screenplay, into the Darjeeling script. Eventually he may stick the short in front of the movie during its theatrical run, but insisted that Fox Searchlight did not dictate what he should do with it. He made the decision to release the short on iTunes and hopes that people view it there before seeing the movie. I would argue for including the short before the movie. I think it enriches it. Here's the Q & A video.
It was incredibly difficult to find the train that they use in the film (it sounds like high-level bribes were involved). The crew took over the train, using each car for different purposes--catering, props, wardrobe etc. They altered the train to make it filmable, adapting ceilings and doors. They took advantage of local craftspeople, hiring them to create wallpaper, fittings and many of the cool details. The train took off every day, so god forbid a member of the cast should be late.
[Originally appeared on Variety.com]