The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

“Please don’t make fun of me. I just wanted to flirt with you.”

#4 of Wes Anderson Series

Anderson comes in full throttle with The Life Aquatic, showing off a hilarious cast, stylized fishies, and another story that will pull on your heartstrings via Bill Murray. People criticized this film a lot for having too much of that Wes Anderson style that we know and love, but personally I liked it just as much in this movie if not more. Otherwise, this movie would not be nearly as memorable without it.

Plot: Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and Team Zissou specialize in making documentaries of their oceanic escapades. When one of their team members, and Steve’s best friend, is killed by a “jaguar shark”, Steve is determined to go out and get revenge. His plan is set back, however, when he is approached by his estranged son (Owen Wilson). Zissou eventually asks him to be part of the crew, and accompanied by his wife, a German, a journalist and others, they set off on their epic journey.

I can see how Anderson’s style isn’t for everybody. Personally, I think it’s brilliant. His dry sense of humor, the under exaggerated acting, the retro look to his sets, the music selections, I love it all. All of that is very prevalent in The Life Aquatic. Why does Anderson have a man singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese throughout the movie? I don’t know, but it’s great.The main thing about Anderson that is so great is the pure imagination of every movie he produces. It makes for a memorable and charming movie every time.

There are both scenes in this movie that will make you want to cry or make you want to laugh. I found it to be the most humorous movie so far in my series of Wes Anderson. Bill Murray is really the highlight of the movie. This was role was great for him and he was amazing as Steve Zissou, our both likable and unlikable hero. It’s weird how he is able to show so much emotion without showing any emotion. For example, at the end when the team finally sees the “jaguar shark” that killed one of their crew members, Steve says “I wonder if it remembers me.” That’s all. This whole movie was based off of the premise that Steve was going after it to kill it and get revenge, but with the delivery of that one simple line so many things were expressed.

Like I said, the movie is absolutely hilarious. But in that subtle and dry way that Anderson loves so much. It’s amped up here so you have to be a fan of that kind of humor of course in order to appreciate it. It’s just one of those Anderson trademarks I love so much. Another one that stuck out to me was the intricate set design. My favorite shot of the whole movie was when Steve gives a tour of the ship to Owen Wilson’s character, Ned. The way Anderson decided to execute this shot was by building the ship like a doll house, so to speak. We witness Steve going through all sorts of rooms throughout the ship (rooms that are so uniquely designed yet we only see maybe once throughout the film) but the camera itself only moves up and down and side to side while facing the side of the ship. It’s a brilliant shot in my opinion and something you would only see from an Anderson film.

Conclusion: This film was majorly criticized at the time of it’s release for being “too Anderson”. For some, his style is too much and takes away from the story itself. Personally, I think his style amplifies any story and it especially worked for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Once again, he creates a great story with interesting characters, hilarious yet understated humor, some amazing set and costume design, and a whole bunch of other weird things that you can’t get from any other director. His real accomplishment with this film was being able to show so much in just one story; humor, love, heartbreak, grief, action, etc.  All of this made The Life Aquatic an engaging and captivating experience that any fan of the director will love.

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