Friday, March 04, 2005

Title:The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Michael Gambon, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum
Director: Wes Anderson

Team Zissou is a rag tag team of under water adventurers, led by their captain Steve Zissou (Bill Murray). Once upon a time they made acclaimed little documentaries and had a world wide following. Those days are behind them; the fan base has faded along with the highs of their career. Their latest film includes the death of one of their oldest members, and Zissou's best friend. Despite resistance and lack of support, Zissou is determined to track down the animal that killed his friend and kill it, what he has christened the "jaguar shark". But at the same time his wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) looks like she might leave him, in favour of her ex-husband Zissou's arch-nemesis (Jeff Goldblum). Then Ned (Owen Wilson) turns up to see Zissou, the man who may be his father. Regardless Zissou sets out on his mission, accompanied by his eclectic crew and a pregnant reporter (Cate Blanchett) who's intent is not entirely clear.

The Life Aquatic is a pathos heavy comedy with Bill Murray as the deadpan and dejected lead. At the time of his greatest loss (his dead friend), he is presented with a son he never wanted, who also acts as a reminder of old he himself has become. Goldblum's suave and egotistical role presents something of a polar opposite to Murray, they are both adventurer's but while Murray's popular wanes Goldblum's just seems to increase, Goldblum gets all the money that Murray used to get, and Goldblum's crew are a cloned example of exemplary discipline. As the film goes on there is an increasing sense of tragedy, will this be the last voyage of Team Zissou whether they like it or not - team member Klaus (Dafoe) is annoyed that Ned has turned up and is the new flavour of the month, team member Anne-Marie is concerned that Zissou is leading them on an illegal suicide mission, and Zissou is concerned that the reporter is out to shaft them in print.

Wes Anderson directs The Life Aquatic, following on from films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. A number of the cast members here have been involved in his past projects, ensuring them a familiarity that makes for a good working relationship on screen. Anderson's debut was the film Bottle Rocket, which didn't get a very large distribution on it's release, so it fell to his follow up Rushmore, which also starred Bill Murray, to establish a name for the young writer/director. He followed Rushmore with The Royal Tenenbaums, which was pretty well received, though for me it wasn't as good as Rushmore. From that this is a team of writer/director and actors that is very much on form.

The Life Aquatic is filled with a charm and humour, backed up by nice little special effects of fantastic under water creatures, high adventure on the open seas with pirate encounters, and a smart soundtrack which is heavily comprised of David Bowie classics sung in Portuguese. With The Life Aquatic some will find that there is perhaps a large "eh" factor, but if are not bothered by that, or can get past that, The Life Aquatic is great fun.

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