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What’s Wrong With You?

I was watching the Darjeeling Limited today and realized that it contains a line I always liked.  The Darjeeling Limited is, of course, a train, that is at least partially representative of the path of the characters’ lives.  The opening scene is of, presumably the main characters’ father, missing a train.  As you find out later, the father has died.  Early in the movie the brother’s train takes a wrong turn, much like the character’s lives already have, and their train must be righted.

My favorite line is uttered by Rita, an Indian woman working on the train played by the beautiful Amara Karan.


She has been taken advantage of (and incidentally has taken advantage of) Jack Whitman.  As he is kicked off the train, she poses a question to Jack.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Her inquiry is in response to the brother’s antics on the train up to that point in the movie.

Each of these brothers lives are off-track for one reason or another.  Jack Whitman is completely broken-hearted having just broken off his relationship with his girlfriend, played by Natalie Portman.  Francis Witman’s face and the rest of his body have been broken in a physical and visible way (he’s wearing bandages through most of the movie) by an automobile accident.  Peter Whitman is married and about to have a child, but is obviously very broken by the death of the three brother’s father.  They are also all self-absorbed, hurtful to one another and unable to cooporate.

The question posed to Jack is intentionally metaphorical and existential.  What is wrong with Jack?  Where are these brothers and what are they doing?  Each brother is lost along their spiritual journey.  Each is trying, in their own misguided ways, to find their way through this life.  Each is carrying emotional “baggage” conveniently represented by a large set of matched luggage.  The luggage previously belonged to their now-deceased father.  Each brother carries three or four pieces of the luggage.  Only when they are together is the entire set collected.  Each brother now carries a tangible small piece.  Of course, near the end of the film, the brothers must abandon their luggage in order to catch their train, no longer the Darjeeling Limited.

In a scene shortly after Rita’s question, the brothers push their father’s car out into the street during a flashback.  They inadvertently cut a large truck-driver off.  Peter yells at the driver out of the car door and he steps out of his truck in order to deliver a sound beating.  The brothers each in turn suggest, strongly that the man return to his truck.  He does.  This is the only scene, so far, in which the brothers work together.  A, relatively, positive outcome is the result.  You receive your first hint of the place in which they will find themselves.

In another of my favorite movies, De De asks Joe the same question.

“What’s wrong with you?”

“I don’t know.  I don’t… know.”

In the context of Joe Versus the Volcano, the question is clearly allegorical and existential as well.  Joe‘s soul is being destroyed by his repetitive, do-nothing job as a marketing assistant for a medical supply company.  His spiritual journey requires him to attempt his own suicide before he conquers his fear of death and overcomes his lack of love for life.  Joe meets the same girl three times over, but is only able to connect with the one who is willing to help him conquer his fear of death.  I always felt that the point of meeting the same girl three times before falling in love was that falling in love does not have much to do with the other individual, but more to do with your own state of mind.  In any event, he finds his spiritual peace in the context of his near-death and remains pessimistic, but with Patricia (the third incarnation of the same woman) by his side, he has positivity that contradicts, yet accepts and loves his character.

So, I ask you… and I often ask myself…

“What’s wrong with you?”

I don’t have an answer, yet, but I think its a very important question.

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