The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou


Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by:Wes Anderson
Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Cate Blanchett, Angelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum
Released: March 17, 2005
Grade: A

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou marks the third time that Bill Murray has worked with writer-director Wes Anderson and I couldn’t be happier.  He may have only made four films to date but Anderson has developed a true cult following.  If you like your comedies a little bit different it’s time that you too discover just how talented he is.

As for Bill Murray, I’ve been a fan since seeing Caddyshack and Ghostbusters at a very early age.  He has the knack for being hilariously funny whilst keeping a dead serious look on his face.  He would certainly be one of the top 10 comedic actors of the modern era.  Murray first worked with Anderson in 1998’s Rushmore.  This dark comedy about an over-achieving student and a disenchanted teacher fighting for the affection of a lady earned Murray several critics awards.  See it if you haven’t already.

The Life Aquatic centres on fictitious oceanographer and documentary filmmaker Steve Zissou (Murray).  His latest project is to go in search of a tiger shark which killed his best friend and colleague Bill Ubell.  When asked the scientific purpose of this journey at a media conference, Steve is blunt in saying “revenge”.

Unfortunately for Steve, his documentaries have not been a major success financially and he’s struggling to find money for this new venture.  That’s all about to change when a young pilot by the name of Ned Plimpton (Wilson) introduces himself.  Ned’s mother recently passed away and he has come is search of the father he has never met… Steve Zissou!  Steve hates children and never knew he had any but takes Ned and his inheritance money under his wing.  A bond develops a Ned soon becomes a valuable members of “Team Zissou”.

There are more characters to throw into the mix.  Steve’s wife Eleanor (Huston) is tiring of Steve’s adventures and is looking for a life of her own.  Reporter Jane Winslett-Richardson (Blanchett) is writing a magazine cover story on Steve and is not afraid to ask the tough questions.  Don’t forget Steve’s main rival, Alistair Hennessey (Goldblum), who’s always looking to trump him on any major discovery.

It’s an insane bunch of characters in a hard to describe adventure but it all adds up to great comedy.  I laughed a hell of a lot but I can’t make that guarantee for all.  Like any comedy, what some people find funny, others find innately boring.  The fact that this film is screening in only one cinema in Brisbane (the Palace Centro) tells us that the major multiplexes believe it’s too quirky to attract a decent size audience.

The performances of the cast and wonderful and it’s one of the best ensembles of the year.  Even the smaller characters (such as the interns) manage to be funny without saying a word.  It all revolves around Bill Murray though and he’s at his finest here.  He brings out the best in everyone and how the others keep a straight face I do not know.

It’s a tricky title to remember by The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou could well be the comedy of the year.  There’s only one way to see if what I’m saying is true and that’s to get out there and see it!