The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Year: 2004
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach

RYAN’S REVIEW

Wes Anderson has only made a handful of movies to date and I love nearly all of them but this one is without doubt my favorite.  His movies tend to be slower and have a very subtle type of comedy to them that just gets me every time. The film is dedicated to Jacques Cousteau and was made as both a tribute and caricature to his films. In this film we see Bill Murray in the lead role playing an apathetic and disheartened rival to “Cousteau and his cronies” that is on a mission for revenge of all things. Somewhere out there is the mysterious Jaguar Shark, that may or may not exist, who killed his right hand man. Things have fallen apart for him and he just flat out doesn’t care anymore.  As he goes on this adventure seeking revenge he encounters financial difficulties, pirates, a small mutiny, and a tragic loss along the way.

I am a huge fan of Bill Murray and think his performance in this film is one of the best he has ever had.  As Steve Zissou he plays a man who was once on top but has fallen from the limelight and is now laughable.  He has lost his drive and now lives carelessly and without inhibition. I love his “scientific purpose” for killing this Bigfoot of the sea. Revenge, a ridiculous notion to take out on a sea creature that may or may not exist, but it jives perfectly with the personality of Steve Zissou.  When Ned approaches him with the possibility of being his son he simply drifts away for a moment and smokes a joint on bow of the ship then returns to immediately pick right back up with the conversation.  The way he treats Ned is hilarious too.  When they sit down to have a drink together he treats this grown man as if he were a child, “no that’s mine, he doesn’t know anything about wine.” Paired with Zissou’s apathetic style is an arrogance that only a man who was once great can have.  I love when he renames Ned Kingsley Zissou and just goes forward with it even after Ned’s reservations. Zissou may be kind of a dick but he is ballsy and that makes him a badass. The scenes when he breaks free to fight the pirates and leads his crew in the rescue of the bond company stooge are awesome.  One of my favorite lines from the movie comes right after he fights off the pirates when he yells “you left your dog you idiots!” Yet Zissou later leaves the dog behind himself after rescuing the bond company stooge. All and all I love this guy; he’s like “The Dude” of the sea only not a pacifist and a lot crazier.  He is an awesome character and I don’t think any other actor out there could have brought him to life in quite the same way as Bill Murray.  Murray is truly a one of a kind artist and person. We must cherish every film he has left in him and with hope there are many more to come.

Wes Anderson uses so many of the same actors on a regular basis that he has practically developed his own troupe.  Owen Wilson is one of his regulars and turns in a great performance as Ned, who may or may not be Steve Zissou’s son.  I think his accent in the film is perfect, it has a draw and twang to it that really adds humor to the things he says.  I’ve read that he modeled the accent after that of Will Patton.  I can see how he tried but there is still a nasally sound to it that makes it sound altogether different from Patton.  Willem Dafoe plays the part of Zissou’s most loyal crewman Klaus, who struggles with the relationship developing between Steve and Ned possibly because he is a closet homosexual.  I think Klaus is awesome and I love the scene in which he confronts Ned and smacks him across the face. Willem Dafoe was everywhere for a while right at the turn of the century but I haven’t seen him in anything significant in quite a while.  That’s disappointing because I think he is a great actor.  He has a role in Anderson’s next movie and I look forward to it.

I am not a big fan of Anjelica Huston but Wes Anderson obviously is because he casts her in everything.  I don’t know this but if I was a betting man I’d put money on the notion that she probably reminds him of his mother as that is the role he usually casts her in.  She has a look that conveys intelligence and dignity and she brings that quality to every role she plays in his films.  As Eleanor Zissou, Etheline Tenembaum, and as the estranged mother Patricia from Darjeeling Limited she is always a strong, wise, and independent woman.  I’m not a big fan because personally I have always thought she looked kind of evil but her roles in Anderson’s film have really made me come around to liking her more.

I’ve also never been a fan of Jeff Goldblum, at least not as a leading man anyway.  I do like him much more when he plays a secondary character like he does in this film as Zissou’s rival Alistair Hennessey. I think Goldblum has plenty of great scenes in this movie but my favorite is when he meets Zissou on the deck of his ship.  When he casually asks the dogs name before walking over and smacking the shit out of him is so funny.  I like the way asks its name before hitting it and the way he points at it as he stares it down afterwards.  It conveys power from a man who has succeeded so much more than his rival has financially.  Cate Blanchett is a fantastic actress and has a very interesting role in this movie.  Blanchett hadn’t even met her co-stars when she walked onto set and filmed her first scene with them on the beach looking at the glowing Man-of-wars.  She is that talented of an actress though, she’s a pro who can show up and drop a great performance just like that.

It was made out to be a big deal that Bud Cort was cast in the movie but I don’t buy it.  Now I’m not saying he didn’t do a good job because I thought he was excellent as the bond company stooge.  I love the scene after the rescue on the Belafonte when Hennessey asks how they got all his equipment and Cort replies “we fucking stole it,” hilarious.  I simply won’t give Cort any additional credit because I specifically hated the film he is most famous for.  I hear all the time about how it’s a classic and what not but I can’t see it.  As far as I am concerned Harold and Maude is a bleak and demented movie.  Its dark comedy on suicide never really appealed to me and I think the relationship between the two title characters is gross.  You can say love holds no bars but screw that I’m telling you there is a line that shouldn’t be crossed when it comes to age difference as it pertains to sexual relations.

The ending to this film is so powerful.  When everyone finally sees the Jaguar shark it proves that Zissou wasn’t crazy, and even he himself questioned that at times.  Throughout the entire film he never seems certain that there is actually anything out there but finding it validates him as a person.  He gets emotional for the only time in the film because he realizes he isn’t crazy and he still has the talents he thought he had lost.  I think in that moment he finally allows himself to feel the loss of his best friend Esteban and of his possible son Ned.  It is touching to see this stoic and apathetic character actually feel something. Following that scene is the Zissou sitting outside alone as the audience applauds his newest film.  As he is joined by his crew he walks away triumphantly to whatever new adventure lay before him.  It is an incredible ending to an awesome movie.

This is a movie I usually hesitate to recommend to people because I never know how other people will take Wes Anderson.  I love his films and wholeheartedly look forward to every one he makes but most of the people I talk to don’t really like his films.  Despite that I’m going to say this film is without doubt worth your time because it is one of my favorites.  If you have seen it before please leave a comment to share your own thoughts, I am always interested to hear what other people have to say about a film I don’t know many who have watched.

AMBER’S REVIEW

This movie is absurdly ridiculous in all the right ways. Of course by now you should know, and understand that we really like Wes Anderson. He has an original style and look and I don’t think any other movie carries it as well as this one. It was such a strange, strange film yet so interesting you can’t look away. And furthermore, I will watch anything that has Bill Murray in it. (Side note about Bill Murray. Have we ever mentioned we live in North Carolina? Every year we go down to SC around Folly Beach and vacation and visit some friends. Guess who also vacations around the area? That’s right Bill Murray. And legend has it that he is extremely nice in real life.)

lifeaquatic

This is probably the best I have seen where the designer tried to fit the whole fucking cast in there. I still hate it. But at least there are no floating heads in the ocean surrounding the pod. I have to say I am really disappointed with this poster. I think that they had such an opportunity to do something really cool because of the design and style of Wes Anderson. Boo, I am not impressed with this poster at all. One of my least favorites simply because of the opportunities lost on it.

NEXT MOVIE: Life of Brian (1979)

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