The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
raises a lot of questions. Like, why does it have such a stupid
fucking name? Then, the next question that comes up as the movie
goes on is, why are they wasting so many opportunities? I don't
know the answer to either, but the flick's as half-baked as the
frozen turkey I tried to deep-fat fry in a plastic trash can for
Christmas. Probably not as many people got violently ill from
the movie. Then again, I didn't charge anyone ten bucks for my
fuckup. I gave it away free, and I even gave my family the leftovers
as a way to say sorry without actually having to say that.
The Life Aquatic, Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, a sort
of Wal-Mart version of Jacques Cousteau, who leads a band of misfits
on poorly-planned ocean adventures. He makes low-budget, ill-informed
movies about oceanic wildlife, but his business and his inspiration
are in the crapper. He's grown disillusioned and ended his most
recent film with a tacky cliffhanger ending after his lifelong
friend is supposedly eaten by a fantastical Jaguar Shark, a creature
nobody else has ever seen. Owen Wilson is a young Air Kentucky
pilot and bastard who meets up with Murray and joins his crew
because he believes he's his father.
on the journey to hunt down and kill the Jaguar Shark is Cate
Blanchett as a pregnant, but single, reporter who once idolized
Murray. Her grade-school adulation is quickly dashed as she realizes
he's an immature, unprepared and monumentally insecure fool. Wilson
and Murray's father-son relationship is challenged first by Murray's
indifference, and then by their mutual attraction to Blanchett.
Underlying everything in the Life Aquatic is a fumbled
tone of wistfulness for the lost innocence and the disappointment
of confronting adulthood. It's a story better told by J. M. Barrie,
and writers West Anderson and Noah Baumbach seem to know it. Blanchett
plays Wendy to Murray's Peter Pan and his crew of Lost Boys. Murray's
elaborate ship, the Belafonte, is Neverland where they never have
to grow up. Shit, there are even pirates. The problem is the movie
isn't committed to the theme, or anything sentimental. And there
are far too many detours, including stealing the equipment of
a rival marine biologist, a pointless pirate attack and a near
mutiny. Some are funny, all look great, but they don't mean anything.
film captures the colors and imagination of a sixth-grader really
well. I should know, I got held back that year twice. And damned
if I still wasn't the last kid to hit puberty. The movie blends
in make-believe sea creatures and boys' dreams of seaplanes, helicopters
and unlimited freedom, but fails to be disciplined enough to really
make its point with them. Mostly they serve as great visuals or
punchlines to jokes that knock the main story on its ass.
movie is seriously numb, like your ass after falling asleep drunk
in the snow. It left me as underwhelmed as when, drunk but sincere,
I bawled to my father how much I loved him and he responded with
a pause, a clearing of his throat and then asked if I stole his
reversible drill. So I punched him in the nuts. So for the same
reason I have a hard time giving my relatives passing grades,
I can't love a movie that shows no love.
no love for its characters. Director Anderson sure as shit loves
making movies and cramming them with details, contraptions and
fantastic visuals. He even loves dialog and writes bits that other
writers would kill to have. It's just that he seems to be getting
so God damned disinterested in people that he can't give them
any sort of emotional trip that makes the physical one worth following.
He did the same thing with Royal Tenenbaums, where he spent
so much time sketching the characters' quirks that he never bothered
letting them express anything. Finally, in its last ten minutes
The Life Aquatic becomes bittersweetly beautiful. It is
almost enough for me to forgive director Wes Anderson for the
rest. But then I thought, what the fuck? Why couldn't the other
100 or so minutes be that nice? It could be with a little more
attention to the big things and less attention to the details.
that they don't show emotion, the actors don't have much to do.
Shit, that's the sort of job I could do, stand around and do nothing.
That is, with the exception of Willem Dafoe as a jealous deckhand,
who displays a very funny jealous loyalty to Murray. His scenes
are emotional and sympathetic and give me a glimpse of what could
be. Wilson and Murray, though, have no chemistry because they
stand wooden and spout lines at each other. Blanchett, who is
a damn good actress and a really pretty one, gets a meaty role
on paper, as a disillusioned, pregnant and romantically confused
woman. Again, though, it's completely stunted by the direction
and lack of story.
Life Aquatic is a beautiful mess and a fucking waste of potential.
I know, I've heard that somewhere before, mostly from teachers.
I just hope Anderson doesn't do what I did and keep ignoring others
until they just stop caring. Three Fingers for The Life
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