A review of Wes Anderson’s charming and colourful The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
One-sentence Synopsis: Hansel, Galadriel and Peter from Ghostbusters find a shark.
My Rating: a million crayon ponyfish (i.e. wonderful)
I feel that it’s only right if my first review for this blog covers one of my favourite films (yes I know it’s not the film in the title of the blog, but Life Aquatic is much more difficult to make a pun out of). I am acutely aware that this review will be completely biased, Anderson being my favourite director, however I am a strong believer in passion being a strong persuasive force.
First, some housekeeping. The film, released in 2004 and running at approx. 119 minutes was written by Noah Baumbach, of The Squid and the Whale notoriety and director Wes Anderson. If my one sentence synopsis wasn’t clear enough, the film features Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), his maybe-possibly son Ned (Owen Wilson) and their crew, on their hunt to find the elusive Jaguar Shark (and as a shark enthusiast, I can only dream that one day this shark will spontaneously burst into existence).
In my opinion, this film is beautiful. Anderson’s usual pastel colour scheme, offset by the bright red of the Steve Zissou merchandise seen throughout the film, in addition to the magnificent rainbow stop motion a la the wonderful Henry Selick make this film an absolute must for any lovers of visual spectacle.
And the majestic aspects of the film do not cease there (thank goodness or this would have been an extremely brief review and a poor excuse for a favourite film). Bill Murray is wonderful as Steve and perfectly captures the tumultuous battle between love and dispassion raging within the ageing mariner. Similarly, Owen Wilson is utterly charming as Ned and Anjelica Houston embodies the bitterness of ex-wife Eleanor.
Anderson’s striking and unique cinematographic style features in abundance during the film. One key moment for me is a lovely tracking shot of each of the different rooms aboard the boat , a beautiful insight into the world of the crew and the differing personalities onboard. The close-up of the crayon ponyfish, lasting only a few seconds is another pause-worthy moment (and if you’re anything like me, there are A LOT of pause worthy moments in Anderson’s filmography).
In terms of plot, the film certainly delivers. Admittedly, there are points where the exposition is understandably perhaps too much for some, however between a monster shark, pirates, pregnancy, romance, glowing jellyfish and a three legged dog named Cody, what more could you want?