This movie is one that I fully intended to see when it came out in theaters. Seven years later, I finally got to it. I’m a big Wes Anderson fan, so I am very glad to have knocked this comedy off of my list.

I watched THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (2004) on 12.3.11. It was my first viewing of the film.

I’ve come to think of this movie as the live-action lesser cousin to Wes Anderson’s better FANTASTIC MR. FOX. Both are about alpha men who have blundered their way to alpha status, but are ill equipped to handle the real consequences. Both feature a leading lady who is willing to allow the male their delusional fantasy until they need to step in and make things right. Both are shot similarly, even if one is live action and the other is stop motion animation. In fact, the genesis of the animation for MR. FOX seems to have been born out of the exotic animals animated for  LIFE AQUATIC.

LIFE AQUATIC is a fairly funny movie with some exceptionally funny moments. Despite this, it did not hold me the way ROYAL TENNENBAUMS did, and not nearly the way FANTASTIC MR. FOX recently did. The pacing is not the issue, nor the acting. In fact, the acting in this is exceptional. I think Anderson’s script is just not to the level of some of his others.

There is a Moby Dick aspect to this film which I like, though it gets quickly derailed. The major story, of Bill Murray coming to grips with the fact that he has a son (Owen Wilson) works more than it doesn’t, though as the driving force of the movie it loses momentum (though the relationship’s climax is well executed).

Much of this film is about death. People drop like flies around Murray’s Zissou, and he mostly pays lip service to the loss, using it as an excuse to turn a conversation away from something he doesn’t want to deal with, barely allowing the reality to affect him. These themes are prevalent and consistent,  even if the final death seems to only further accentuate the flaws in Zissou. The moment is intended to be liberating, to return him to his youthful vigor. Instead, it feels as though he is merely a blowhard who’s refusal to listen to others led to the demise of someone close to him.

Those who did not like MR. FOX or ROYAL TENNEBAUMS will hate LIFE AQUATIC. Those who are Wes Anderson fans may find this to be not quite up to par of his best work. But all his films are certainly quirky, STEVE ZISSOU is quirky, and its fans (understandably) are probably a little quirky too. Heck, I love quirky. This, sadly, was just a near miss for me.



There is just exceptional music, both diagetic and non-diagetic, throughout this movie. Loved it. Loved the way it was incorporated into the plot. And I would love this soundtrack.



~ by johnlink00 on December 4, 2011.

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