Every bit as precious as Anderson’s preceding features, it differs this time from late Salinger only in the way that these spoiled neurotics are implicitly ridiculed as both ugly Americans in the third world and spiritual poseurs — unlike their more committed mother (Anjelica Huston). What this movie has going for itself in spite of its cloying pleas for indulgence is a playful and interesting narrative structure that precludes much development and comes to the fore only toward the end.
The Whitmans anticipate enlightenment but find that their rampant individualism, cultural ignorance and disorganised travel arrangements blocks them at every turn. In spite of this, there are moments in the film that do touch upon the sublime, and the setting is partially responsible for the fleeting moments of emotional connection. By charting an actual train through the Indian countryside, and by employing a predominantly local crew, authenticity pokes through Anderson’s beautiful artifice.