The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004)

DVD Cover (Criterion Collection)
Genres: Comedy, Ensemble Film, Sea Adventure
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Wes Anderson Wes Anderson
Bill Murray Bill Murray
Owen Wilson Owen Wilson
Cate Blanchett Cate Blanchett
Anjelica Huston Anjelica Huston
Willem Dafoe Willem Dafoe

6.6 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: May 06, 2005
It is official -- Wes Anderson is my favorite director working today. "Rushmore" remains one of my favorite films of all-time, and re-introduced a whole new generation to the genius that is Bill Murray. "The Royal Tenenbaums" was the most unusual, yet wholly redeeming film of the past few years, and was a testament to the great Gene Hackman. Now, we have "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" -- Anderson's most wholly accessible film, and his most accomplished. Here, he tackles everything from fatherhood to vanity, and even manages to throw in pirates and dolphins for added measure. The result is a marvelous new motion picture that gives Bill Murray yet another achievement, and gave me the best film of 2004. "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" is hilarious, heartbreaking, and completely and totally enjoyable. This is what great movies are all about.

Bill Murray, fresh off his amazing performance in "Lost In Translation", stars as famed oceanographer Captain Steve Zissou, an expert on all things marine life. We first find Steve after the death of his beloved friend and partner, Esteban (Seymour Cassel), who was unexpectedly eaten by something Zissou calls a jaguar shark. Steve then declares that he will set out to find the shark that devoured his closest companion, stating 'revenge' as the scientific purpose of the mission. Accompanying him on the voyage are Ned (Owen Wilson), someone who may or may not be his son of thirty years; Claire, a reporter who is wanting to put Steve on the cover of her magazine; and, Klaus (Willem Dafoe), Steve's longtime shipmate who seems to be German. Anjelica Huston stars as Steve's financially superior wife Eleanor, and Jeff Goldblum as his oceanographic rival Alistair Hennessy. The majority of the film deals with Team Zissou obtaining the funding for the expedition, and the expedition itself, which quickly turns into a new expedition altogether when pirates attack the ship and the ban stooge (Bud Cort) is taken hostage.

"The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" takes place somewhere between fantasy and reality, which is the case of all Wes Anderson pictures. Many of the locations and all of the sea creatures in this film are totally out of Anderson's imagination. Most of the scenes are filmed the way old oceanographic films were made; this is done purposely and adds a nice affect. Some of the marine life -- the seahorses and the fluorescent pink groupers -- are beautiful and completely fake looking at the same time. Does this matter? No. We are so absorbed with the story and the characters that we don't care what the marine animals look like. The Belafonte itself is something out of a dream -- rooms that connect together until the ship itself almost feels like one large room. Anything an oceanographer ever dreamt of having or seeing is somewhere in this picture. Jacques Cousteau -- eat your heart out.

And, as in most Wes Anderson pictures, the performances are rock solid. Anderson has this knack for writing some of the most dry and sincere dialogue out there. His character confront issues in such a straight forward manner, as when Owen Wilson is is talking to Cate Blanchett about his mother -- it is so blunt it almost seems shocking. Bill Murray is nothing short of amazing as Steve Zissou -- displaying a wide range of emotions. Watch Murray at the end of the film, while the entire cast is inside the mini-sub -- watch his facial expressions and his eyes when he starts to break down. Wow. Owen Wilson is also delightful here, giving us a taste of a Kentucky accent and a very accute sense of comic timing. Cate Blanchett also manages to take a supporting character and really give her depth and emotion -- she continues to amaze with each new performance. Apart, these performances are solid enough; but, in the ensemble, they are only tiny miracles that make up the whole of the larger miracle.

If only every character could be as emotionally rich and intriguing as Steve Zissou. He is someone that you love one minute and then hate the next. He is a genius. He is a bastard. He is dedicated. He is a real prick. Murray manages to blend all of this together into someone who ends up feeling like a giant amongst mere mortals. "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" is flawless filmmaking, from beginning to end, and really makes it known that Wes Anderson is a force with which to be reckoned...and it certainly appears as if he is here to stay. You know it is a good sign when a majority of the audience applauds when the credits start to roll, and that is what happened here. That did not happen for "Kinsey". That did not happen for "The Motorcycle Diaries". And, I am proud to say that I was one of the audience members rhyming hand in hand with everyone else. 9.5/10.
fucci #1: fucci - added 12/18/2005, 02:14 PM
Bill Murray blew my mind. The entire film blew my mind! The cast and script is beyond genius! The Tenenbaums took time to grow on me, and so unfortunately I appreciated it a lot less than others, but wow, The Life Aquatic: one of the most humorous, best shot and put together stories I have ever seen. I am now decidedly a Wes Anderson fan forever. TLA is one of my favorites--of all my favorite films. I could watch it... over and over... and laugh and laugh. (The battle with the pirates on the Belafonte is just one example of its priceless comedy.) Steve Zissou, with his joints and careless attitude, is the coolest character, ever!
ThunderStruck5a #2: ThunderStruck5a - added 06/21/2007, 09:02 AM
this movie was so boring. everyone said how good it was so i rented it and i was just waiting impatiently for it to end. the only good parts were the Belafonte battle, william dafoe's character, and that the guy from the tv series Criminal Minds (Matthew Gray Gubler) was one of the interns with a misshapen afro. anything else that could have been funny or appriciatable in the film were lost. i love sarcasm and dry humor but this was just too much, not to mention it was more dry than funny.

p.s. i didnt think tennebaums was that great either........even though i would say it was 'good'. Definitely much better than Life Aquatic though, without a doubt
Tristan #3: Tristan - added 10/24/2007, 11:49 PM
"I'm going to fight it, but I'll let it live" This movie is filled with some of the best lines I've ever heard in a comedy. From start to finish, easily one of the funniest movies I've ever seen, and one of my top 10 comedies. I will never get tired of this one. 10/10
bluemeanie #4: bluemeanie - added 10/26/2007, 12:38 PM
"What would be the scientific purpose for killing the shark?"

Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
Crispy #5: Crispy - added 05/30/2008, 12:01 AM
Gotta agree with Thunder on this one. I was quite underwhelmed.
Tristan #6: Tristan - added 05/30/2008, 12:04 AM
Underwhelmed? Do you even know what a good movie is? I don't know why I bothered asking that, as it's clear you don't.
Crispy #7: Crispy - added 05/30/2008, 12:08 AM
Oh yeah, because Superbad and Borat are the best pieces of cinema in recent history. Oh that's right, you actually believe that. Jog on.
Tristan #8: Tristan - added 05/30/2008, 12:14 AM
Did I say they were the best pieces of cinema? No. They were just funny fucking movies. Bit of a difference there. "jog on"
Crispy #9: Crispy - added 05/30/2008, 12:19 AM
Note to sarcasm there. Either way, you jumped down my throat because I didn't like those either. Really, the only thing that's funny is that you get all bent out of shape with anyone who disagrees with you. What exactly are you accomplishing? Oh my god, someone disliked a movie you thought was great! We can't have that! Question their opinion, so it does not override your own!
Nirrad #10: Nirrad - added 05/30/2008, 12:21 AM
Agreed with Tristan and Meanie, this movie is simply awesome. I used to be a big fan of Bill Murray, so this was definitely a must see for me and my friend when it came out. It didn't disappoint.
Tristan #11: Tristan - added 05/30/2008, 12:26 AM
I didn't jump down anyone's throat. I just can't stand people jumping on the "cool to hate this movie" bandwagon. And I'm not bent out of shape. I just have no respect for complete ignorance when it comes to a real movie. This didn't live up to your standards, and somehow Beerfest warranted a 7? Something isn't right there.
Crispy #12: Crispy - added 05/30/2008, 12:37 AM
*shrugs* Beerfest was an early review, before I got my numbering down, and I'm usually kind of generous when it comes to dishing out the number score anyway. But tell me, at what point do bandwagons have to do with anything (Nevermind the fact that the 'bandwagon' for all three films were "this movie rocks")? I didn't like the movie because I didn't like the movie. And that's exactly what i said; I didn't like it, I never said it was a bad movie. I can easily see how people would, I'm just not one of them. So at the end of the day, you're just going to have to get over the fact that someone has a different opinion than you do, but I doubt either of us are going to lose sleep over it.
Nirrad #13: Nirrad - added 05/30/2008, 01:25 AM
Oh Tristan is definitely going to lose sleep over it. He takes these ordeals pretty hard.
Ginose #14: Ginose - added 05/30/2008, 03:11 AM
Personally, I loved this movie. I'm not a HUGE Wes Anderson fan, but I find his movies entertaining enough. (Personally, I've just never been able to relate to any of his charecters... call me loopy, just never worked for me.)
Earnestly, I found this to be one of his best, easily, it was funny, witty and just beautiful to look at... Easily a 9.1/10
...Got to side with Crispy and his whole "bandwagon" argument, though. Since when is it automatically a trend for people to hate a particular movie? It doesn't make sense. You can call it a trend, but just because alot of people didn't like your movie doesn't make it a bandwagon. I hated that P.O.S. "The Blair Witch Project" the day I left the theatre, feeling bored, nausiated and disappointed. Now, all of a sudden I'm on a bandwagon because lots of people claim to dislike it... IT SUCKED. Whoopty-shit if a mojority didn't like it... it's not a bandwagon, just alot of people's opinions... fucking Blair Witch...
bluemeanie #15: bluemeanie - added 05/30/2008, 10:10 AM
The whole 'Cool to Hate This Movie' is actually something I reference in virtually 50% of all my reviews, it seems. How nice that it finally comes up in another argument, without other people. It's nice not to be entangled in a mess on here for a change. I will say this -- the whole 'cool to hate this movie' typically refers to films that were insanely popular when they came out. Once a film reaches such a high level of pop culture status, film geeks think they have to hate the film because it has become so popular. "Blair Witch" is a perfect example. "The Life Aquatic", though I love it, would not be an example of 'cool to hate this movie' because when it was released there were more people that hated it than loved it. Though I do not agree, it has gone down as Wes Anderson's worst reviewed film. Just wanted to clear up the definition of 'cool to hate this movie'.

Keep on bickering...it's nice to observe for a change...
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