Netflix & Chill #39: The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Watched On: Netflix
Released: 2004
Starring: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Bud Cort
Rotten Tomatoes: 56%
Pick: Mine

The Elder Spawn loved reading Fantastic Mr. Fox so much that I surprised him and sprung for the movie, which he also loves. But watching it again made me get an itch to watch some more Wes Anderson movies, so I decided to revisit The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and it was far more delightful and charming than I remember it being.

Following his success with The Royal Tennenbaums (another movie I need to rewatch), Anderson sets the stage for The Life Aquatic by opening the movie at a film festival in Italy. The latest documentary from Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) and instead of the wonders of the ocean, it deals with a tragedy as Steve's best friend and chief diver, Esteban (Seymour Cassel) is eaten by a creature that Zissou describes as a 'jaguar shark.' His crew thinks he has 'the crazy eye' and isn't quite sure they believe him, but for his next project, Zissou is determined to find the shark that ate his friend and kill it.

The crew of Zissou's ship prepares to launch their next expedition to find the jaguar shark and we meet many of them, including, Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) his estranged wife and chief financial backer, Pele dos Santos (Seu Jorge), Klaus Daimler (Willem Dafoe), the first mate and other crew members ranging from Vikram Ray, the camera man to the group of unpaid interns from the University of North Alaska. Zissou's plan to find the jaguar shark hits an immediate snag as he has no money to finance the documentary.

The money problem looks to be solved thanks to the appearance of Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) a longtime fan of Zissou who thinks he might be Zissou's son. He offers his inheritance to finance the film which angers Eleanor, who believes that Steven is taking advantage of Ned, so she leaves. Zissou presses ahead with his expedition- with a reporter, Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett) who is pregnant and along for the ride to chronicle the voyage. Ned and Steve both develop infatuations with Jane and a rivalry develops between them as a result.

First, they stop at a remote station owned by Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum) a nemesis of Zissou who is far more successful than he is, They they head into unprotected waters where they are hijacked by Filipino pirates, who take their bond company guy hostage and all of Ned's money to boot. Hennessey rescues them and tows them in to Port-au-Patois where Zissou convince Eleanor to rejoin the crew to go and rescue Bill, which they do. (Picking up Hennessey as well, who was also kidnapped.)

Everyone rescued, Ned and Steve go up in the helicopter one last time to try and find the jaguar shark, but something malfunctions and they crash. Ned dies of his injuries and is buried at sea and finally, at long last, Steve finds the jaguar shark and is moved by its beauty and out of dynamite so decides not to kill it. Their documentary, dedicated to Ned is premiered to great acclaim and the crew heads back to the ship ready for their next adventure.

Overall: I'm pretty sure I owned the soundtrack to this at one point, since it features Seu Jorge singing David Bowie songs in Portuguese which is as awesome as it sounds. All the charming Anderson touches are there and the cinematography is beautiful. I think I would happily own this movie- I don't think I thought it was that good when I saw it the first time, but now, I think it'd be great just to have on a shelf so I could pop it in now and again and be charmed by the life aquatic. My Grade: *** and a 1/2 out of ****


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