THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH
Buena Vista, Dec 2004
Reviewed by Barbara Fielding
THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU is writer/director Wes Anderson's offbeat tragicomedy featuring a group of oceanographic explorers led by Steve Zissou (Bill Murray). Following his flop at the premiere of his latest documentary and the death of one of his senior crew members (Seymour Cassel), Zissou begins seeking financing for his next project. His producer Oseary Drakoulias (Michael Gambon) raises just enough money for him to take Team Zissou to find the phantom jaguar shark that ate his long-time partner. Zissou's entire existence hangs on the success of this next project, but things quickly begin to go wrong.
Steve's wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston), the brains behind the operation, leaves him when he adds Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) to Team Zissou. Aboard the Belafonte for this voyage is Ned Plimpton, an Air Kentucky pilot who might be Steve's 30-year-old biological son; a pregnant Oceanographic Explorer reporter Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), who is writing a feature on Team Zissou; Klaus (Willem Dafoe), Steve's top crew member, an emotional guy who is jealous of Ned and keeps getting his feelings hurt; plus an assortment of quirky crew members and unpaid college interns.
Team Zissou survives many perilous adventures: they are attacked by pirates and troubled by the competition, Team Hennessey, lead by Eleanor's ex-husband Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum). They have some tragic losses, but in the end sail off in the sunset with another documentary hit in the can.
THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU is a bizarre, farcical comedy that is visually rich and has to be seen to be believed. Filmed on a shabby, rusted out ship with a cutaway set that resembles a doll house, it gives off a melancholy mood. However, I was fascinated by the delightful undersea scenes filmed in animation. There were many unusual sea creatures invented for this film, like a crayon striped sea horse, sugar crabs, paisley octopus and the infamous jaguar shark.
The struggles of Team Zissou are not unlike the tribulations of a wacky dysfunctional family. Murray's classic deadpan expressions and satirical zingers were on display and very entertaining. This film has a specific kind of audience, but I'm not certain what that audience is---perhaps it's for those who are tired of the staple comedies produced by Hollywood--those who are looking for something different, fresh and slightly offbeat.
Wes Anderson, known for his own quirky brand of humor, co-wrote BOTTLE ROCKET, RUSHMORE and THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS with Owen Wilson, but on THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU he shares writing credits with Noah Baumbach.
January 2005 Review
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