The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004, dir. Wes Anderson)
First Watch // Rewatch (9-1-13)
Plot Summary: With a plan to exact revenge on a mythical shark that killed his partner, oceanographer Steve Zissou rallies a crew that includes his estranged wife, a journalist, and a man who may or may not be his son. Starring Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Cate Blanchett.
Review: I just extolled the virtues of rewatching movies in my previous review of Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, since my second viewing of that film made me really love it. However, in some cases, first impressions are absolutely right. This film is a trainwreck, or rather, a shipwreck. The only thing that saves it from 1-star status is my love for Anderson and Wilson (whose screenwriting touch is very much missed here).
As much as I adore Bill Murray, Steve Zissou is an incredibly unlikeable character. He’s pretty much a one-dimensional asshole for 90% of the movie, and all of the supporting characters are more interesting. The film would have been much better without Zissou in it. Wilson’s character, Ned Plimpton, was the only character I really cared about, and he got treated like crap for the most part.
The storyline wasn’t compelling, and neither were the characters. However, the film is visually stunning, and I adore the music and costumes. Overall, I was and probably always will be seriously disappointed in this film. I think part of Anderson’s difficulty here was adjusting to a new writing partner, as his next three films have been miles better than this. I know that there are some rabid fans of this film (my brother included), but I’m not one of them.
In short: Wes Anderson’s weakest film - watch only if you’re a completist of Anderson’s, Wilson’s, or Murray’s filmography.