The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is definitely not Anderson’s best, but arguably the most eccentric piece of filmmaking. Once again, the director takes us on a magical, wonderful, whimsical ride into his peculiar yet amazingly stylish world, where cartoon-like vibe merges with the awesomely unique composition of colors. When it comes to photography, the overall result is definitely stunning. While the story might seem rather incoherent at times, the characters, and their bizarre and poignant attitude towards life, compensate for the superficiality of the narrative.
Steve Zissou (Bill Murray), a pioneer of sea voyages and a well-received weirdo-filmmaker, decides to gather his crew of many fanciful mates, and embark on what will probably be their last journey. This time it’s personal – Steve wants to avenge the death of his close co-worker. In order to do that, he needs to find a rare shark somewhere in the vast ocean waters. As ironic as it may seem, in this clearly peculiar team it’s hard to find someone who even tries to think straight. Apart from the regulars – Steve’s haughty wife (Anjelica Huston), a mysterious German loner (Willem Dafoe), and a few others – Steve finds an unexpected companion in the form of a man (Owen Wilson), who claims to be his estranged long-lost son. Then there’s also the nosy yet fairly vulnerable journalist Jane (Cate Blanchett). As the team sails, the audiences observe their every-day actions in what seems to be a smartly developed video-log. There’s romance, mutiny, abordage, there are heartbreaks, fights, mysterious discoveries. And in all of that hides the bigger premise, which now involves not only finding the creature, but also rescuing a friend who was kidnapped in the process by a gang of tough pirates. Though Zissou finally finds his ‘arch-nemesis’, seeing how glorious and uncanny it is, the protagonist changes his mind and decides to observe the shark in all its glory rather than harm it.
Great performances by a stellar cast – which includes many of Wes’ regulars – truly enhance the experience of watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and cleverly cover up the slightly artificial nature of the picture. The film possesses an amazingly magical and enchanting aura, which – combined with the director’s typical touch of heartfelt whimsy, and many witty dialogues – provides for a satisfying and somehow surrealistic adventure. It’s yet another successful collaboration between Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. Saying that the film’s unformulaic, atypical, and simply bizarre is a huge compliment to the work of those two magnificent artists.