“The Life Aquatic” is another hit for Anderson -jcr -dlh

Reid Stratton

If you are already a fan of director Wes Anderson’s other films “Bottle Rocket,” “Rushmore,” and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” then the chances are pretty high that you’ll like “The Life Aquatic” too. Anderson employs a lot of the same subtlety for which he is so well known, but we also get a few new and striking additions in this film.
The film centers on what is bound to be the once-famous oceanographer and documentary maker Steve Zissou’s (Bill Murray) last voyage. He sets out to sea with his usual crew, plus a man he has just met, Ned Plimpton, (Owen Wilson) who may be his son. The purpose of this mission is to find and kill the shark that killed Zissou’s best friend.
This film is certainly the most fanciful of any of Anderson’s work to date. Perhaps the most interesting touch is the approach to the fish that Zissou comes across. No real fish are named or seen in the film, only ones invented for this movie. Since these fish don’t exist in real life, Anderson chose to use animation to include them in the film. Though we don’t see a lot of animation, it is just enough fantasy to project the entire film into another universe altogether. There are a few other scenes that seem to be from another world, including a bloated Murray in a bathrobe single-handedly gunning down a ship full of pirates.
The story itself is a delicate one that is based almost solely on the relationships between the characters, much like “The Royal Tenenbaums.” The main conflict is between Zissou and his newly discovered son, Ned. Though their relationship starts off well, a wedge is driven between them by *****– what else *****– a woman. Specifically, Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett), a journalist who is covering Zissou’s last voyage. The real charm of the movie, however, comes from the minor characters. My personal favorite is Klaus, played by Willem Defoe, who at times almost steals the show with his hilarious and often endearing performance.
And of course, what would a Wes Anderson movie be without an awesome soundtrack? Most of the music comes from David Bowie, but was translated into Portuguese and played on acoustic guitar. On of the characters, Pel (Seu Jorge), does almost nothing else the entire film but periodically play a Bowie cover Portuguese style. Mark Mothersbaugh, who has written the original music for all of other Anderson films, is back again, and has clearly joined the 8-bit revolution, composing most of his music for MIDI keyboard. The music is as creative as ever, but unfortunately doesn’t work that well in the context of the film.
Anderson’s movies are very difficult to compare to one another, so I won’t even bother, but I will say that “The Life Aquatic” has a lot to offer. Though it does ramble ever so slightly. The visual gags, the writing, and the superb acting make this film an excellent choice for this ******– the dreariest time of the year. You might as well spice it up by watching a movie set in the tropics. ***A-***