Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, The (2004)

April 12, 2011 By Mike B
Movie Review


What Worked?

A wonderfully comedic take on Moby Dick, the Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou places the audience in a peculiar world that somehow becomes comfortably relative, all the while being wholly entertaining on various levels. Wes Anderson once again hits his mark with his unique, quirky style of filmmaking, and Bill Murray is at the top of his game in the lead role.

Anderson constructs a film that is a pleasure to look at with its bright, comforting colors, complimenting the oddness of the characters rather well. He utilizes the complex art of continuous shots, as well as tracking shots, very effectively, especially with the introduction to the battle-tested Zissou ship. Additionally, Anderson morphs all of the sea animals into brightly glowing cartoon creatures, adding to the quirky nature of the film’s atmosphere. There are many little delightful touches to the film, whether it’s a sped-up montage, insertion of old cheesy documentary footage or the wonderful music by Seu Jorge. The world that Anderson creates is eerily beautiful.

Three words: classic Bill Murray. Murray, as Steve Zissou, shows his mastery of dry, subtle humor, but Murray also layers the character with a sense of emptiness and feeling of mid-life crisis that works in both the comedy and drama departments. Murray, as Steve Zissou, is a comedic asshole, but wholly sincere about his newly found father-son relationship. There’s something about Zissou’s thousand mile stare that captures a longing for happier times. The rest of the cast is amazing as well. Willem Dafoe plays Klaus, a member of Team Zissou, who is lovably jealous and childish, always looking for the approval of Steve. Cate Blanchett is also a highlight, playing the pregnant journalist trying to conjure up a story about her childhood hero.

This adventure with Steve Zissou is a fantastic escape, and even though it is mostly humorous, it does capture the longing for the “good times” that are barely visible in the rear-view, as well as the ups and downs of the rapport between father and son. The film deals with serious subject matter in a quirky, comedic way, but also manages to garner an emotional hold rather than completely poke fun of relative troubles. In a way, the comedy helps ease the acceptation of the tragedies. Steve Zissou is a broken man on the wrong side of 50, but we partake on an adventure with him because he’s still willing to have one; not to mention, he’s hilarious.

Potential Drawbacks:

Owen Wilson is not up to speed with the rest of the characters, but he does well enough to not be a sore distraction.

Is this a comedy or a drama? It leans towards comedy more, but it does deal with a few heavy issues, and some people may not like the mixed vibe that the film gives off. In addition, for those who have never seen a Wes Anderson film, the comedy may seem a bit off at first, and it may remain that way if it’s not in your taste.

Film Recommendations:

Lost in Translation
Royal Tenenbaums
Darjeeling Limited


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