For anyone who is a true Wes Anderson fan, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a welcome treat. Anderson again succeeds in creating memorable characters and injecting his unique brand of humor into the film.
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The Life Aquatic begins slow, but does pick up pace. The film starts with a screening of Steve Zissou's (played pitch-perfect by Bill Murray) latest ocean documentary. Zissou is a famous oceanographer documentarian (from the start, much different than other screen heroes). In recent years, his films have not had the spark that once existed in them. The featured film records his most recent adventure, including the death of his friend and fellow filmmaker Esteban (played by Anderson favorite Seymour Cassel).
The rest of the film follows Zissou as he goes on an expedition to hunt down and kill (or at least, fight) the shark that killed his friend. Along the way, we are introduced to several other very interesting characters.
Ned Plimpton (played by Owen Wilson) joins the oddball group as a Kentuckian who may be Zissou's son. Other people found in the mix are a quirky German named Klaus (played by Willem Dafoe), Zissou's estranged wife Eleanor Zissou(played by Anjelica Huston), a reporter Jane Winslett-Richardson (played by Cate Blachett), and a competing oceanographer Alistair Hennessey (played by Jeff Goldblum).
While it would be wrong to spoil too much of the film, suffice it to say that there is action, adventure, romance and drama, which are constantly being mixed in this delightful romp. Murray is especially hilarious. He plays Zissou with just the right mix of depression and zest for life (weird to say, but easy to understand once seen).
This is my least favorite character Owen Wilson has played in an Anderson film. That doesn't mean that I don't like Wilson in the movie. I just think that Dignan from Bottle Rocket was much, much funnier.
I loved Blanchett in the film. She has been having a stellar year with this movie, The Aviator and Coffee and Cigarettes. I know that Jude Law and Ben Stiller tied for being in the most films (6) in 2004, but Blanchett gave the most great performances. Her character and the relationships she develops with the others are simply delightful.
Dafoe is hilarious as a crew member who is obsessed with seeking and receiving Zissou's affections. It was the least Dafoe-like character I've ever seen him play. It was also my favorite character he's played. His part is small, and I think that that's good. It keeps you wanting more, like Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (I don't mean that Klaus is anything like Spicoli's character).
The way I feel about Christopher Guest films is the way I am beginning to feel about Wes Anderson films. If you love the director and the style/method he is using, you are going to like all of his films. So, while The Life Aquatic was not my favorite Anderson film, I still thoroughly enjoyed it (it was also not my least favorite). I left feeling happy. The movie was hilarious (I refuse to continue what the previews have already started, and spoil more of the funny moments). I really enjoyed the characters, although I feel they were not as well fleshed out as in Anderson's previous efforts.
If you have enjoyed Anderson's subtle, dark comedy in the past, you will be likely to enjoy this Life.
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