Wes Anderson is one of the few directors that is blessed and cursed with having his films incredibly recognizable. He seemingly tries to create colorful noir with his film style and often has pan shots of multiple rooms, letting his characters roam at their whim. His style is so unique and different that it could be off-putting to some, though I’m not one of those.
“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” is a tale of heroism, cowardice, betrayal, and large marine predators.
Steve Zissou is a film maker and an oceanographer, who was making a film when something went wrong. He was in the ocean with his partner when a huge leopard spotted shark-like creature sneaked up behind them and devoured his partner. Unfortunately for Steve, he was unable to catch this on the camera that they were filming with and the crew above failed as well. When they premiered the film that they were making, the public rejects this, claiming fraud. But on an oath Steve made to his now dead partner, he sets on to find this mysterious beast with the end goal to kill it.
Thus begins the saga. And how wonderfully quirky it is! Steve Zissou is joined with a plethora of weird characters: the journalist who is writing an article on him, his wife who is moody and insufferable at times, a young man who has admired for a long time, a camera man who has been with him for years, and a group of interns among many others.
Anderson likes having his characters say the most bizarre and potentially dramatic lines in such a monotone voice that it becomes funny. For instance, a scene in which Steve comes home and his wife, Eleanor, gives him some news:
ELEANOR: Your cat’s dead.
STEVE: Which one?
ELEANOR: Marmalade, I’m sorry. (lights cigarette)
This is spoken in a hushed voice, almost a whisper. Imagine reading off a phone book and trying to recreate that dull sound in your voice—yeah, everybody speaks like that.
One thing that Wes Anderson really does have is a wonderful cast and this seems to always be the case. Steve is played by the delightfully droll Bill Murray, who had collaborated with Anderson for many films. Eleanor is played by Anjelica Huston who is borderline gothic in this film. Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Michael Gambon, Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe also join the cast.
Although it’s hilarious at spots and not so good in others, “The Aquatic Life of Steve Zissou” always entertains. It’s somewhat mindless fun, but it is fun at that.
It’s really good at story telling to the point where you find yourself asking how you managed to come to this place in the story without really noticing getting there.
It’s not Wes Anderson’s best, but it is worth seeing if only for Bill Murray.
Score: 2 and a half stars out of 4