The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) – Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson transposes his quirky family dramas and characters, and that wonderful eye for details into an undersea adventure that pays homage to, and pokes fun at, the ocean adventure films that rose to popularity with the works of Jacques Cousteau.

Bill Murray stars as the titular Steve Zissou, a Cousteau wannabe who, aboard his ship, the Belafonte, travels the oceans of the world exploring the depths, and educating the world until an encounter with an unknown species claims the life of his best friend.

Vowing revenge, for science, Zissou sets out with his crew including Klaus (Willem Dafoe), a reporter (Cate Blanchett) working on a story, a fan (and possible son) Ned (Owen Wilson), a nemesis explorer Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum) and his wife, Eleanor (Angelica Huston) in search of the creature Zissou has christened a Jaguar Shark.

Filled with delightful character beats, fantastic and fun set design, and the quirkiness we have come to expect from Anderson’s films, this one is arguably one of my favourites. But I say that about all of them when I watch them.

I love the talent Anderson attracts, all the little details, the cross-sections, the art, there’s a whole world in his films, created and embraced not only by those who make it but by those who watch them.

As Zissou pursues the Jaguar Shark he fights for financing, a mutiny, piracy, and making sure he gets the proper lighting and looping for his next film.

Accompanied by a great soundtrack, the film plays brilliantly and lets Murray (and the rest of the cast) shine.

It’s also filled with some delightful effects and aquatic creatures created for the film, but all of it is the backdrop for the emotional arc of Murray’s character as he discovers the depths of his own heart and what his legacy truly means.

I like that each of the characters has their own foibles and quirks and that each of them has their own little arcs and place in the story, fun little details that fill the world out. Anderson and his cast always create worlds that are just a little off from ours, where people have wonderful ways of expressing themselves, and little quirky details are brilliantly brought to life.

I do love a good Wes Anderson film, and this one is so damned good and has some wonderful Bowie covers.

A fantastic cast, a fun idea, and wonderful execution, those seem to be hallmarks of Anderson’s films, and that’s why I enjoy each and every one of them. Next time it’s The Darjeeling Limited.


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