Starring: Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Waris Ahluwalia, Seu Jorge
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Synopsis: With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son.
The Life Aquatic is often hailed as Wes Anderson’s big flop, which I think is unfair. I mean, it was pretty quirky and different to his previous offerings (which makes the accusations that Anderson makes the same film over and over seem redundant) but there are some brilliant moments throughout. It has a deadpan humour beyond that of any of Anderson’s other films but at the same time, due to the style and visual flair, you know exactly who made the film.
Steve Zissou is basically, in this make believe world, Jacques Cousteau. He has had ‘hit’ documentaries (if there is such a thing) for years about his daring ocean escapades but no-one is interested any more. To make matters worse, on his last voyage, his best friend Esteban was eaten by a Jaguar Shark, Steve vows that he is going to track down the shark and kill it. For revenge. Much to the horror of the assembled audience at the documentary screening. He gets the old gang back together on his ship, the Belafonte and away we go.
Bill Murray plays Zissou, a morose, bitter, egotistical, misogynistic documentary maker superbly. He was born to play him and I can’t imagine any one else inhabiting this role. Owen Wilson plays Zissou’s possible son from another life, Ned Plimpton and Cate Blanchett plays the journalist who causes some friction aboard the ship. The rest of the cast, including regulars Dafoe, Huston and Goldblum act as great support.
If you can look past the quirkiness, there is some good stuff on offer here. Every little detail is taken care of. All the sea creatures are stop motion animated, with made up names. The soundtrack is performed by one of Zissou’s crew, Pele, played by Brazilian musician Seu Jorge. He performs David Bowie songs in Portuguese throughout the movie. There are mutinies, pirates, kidnappings, shoot-outs, helicopter crashes, submarines and a huge stop-motion Jaguar Shark, Critics can say that the same Anderson traits exist (the Futura font, the framing, the costuming etc) but this film as a long way from Rushmore.
I have to say I think it’s absolutely great fun, and having watched it for the first time in ages the other day I think it stands up to repeat viewings.