The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Writer/director Wes Anderson is teetering on the precipice between humorous and interesting on one side and bizarre and meaningless on the other. Perhaps it's this very teetering that makes his films interesting to his fans, but as he ventures further and further away from telling an actual story, and closer to merely exploring the bizarre behavior of some randomly odd cast of characters, his movies become increasingly pointless.
"The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" is one such picture. There may be people who enjoy existing in this world of a third-rate oceanographer in the mold of Jacques Cousteau, but I liken it more to being at a party with a bunch of people you don't know and don't really want to know. They all seem weirdly interesting, but at the end of the day, their problems and lives don't really link up to anything real.
To me, Anderson has been struggling for ideas and compelling storylines since "Rushmore" and getting progressively less interesting. Essentially, he seems fascinated by viewing the mundane through the lens of some wacky situation. To me, it just seems mundane and plays like the ramblings of a pot smoker. The ramblings are funny when you're on the weed, but to everyone else they just seem like the observations of a loser.
In "The Life Aquatic," Anderson is basically doing something similar to what Alexander Payne did in "About Schmidt." Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is a guy who, despite being this famous oceanographer, is approaching retirement without much to show for it personally or professionally. (As an aside, I hated "About Schmidt." There was a contingent that considered the film a dark comedy, but I personally found it way too close to reality to be funny at all. What's funny about coming to the end of your life and realizing you wasted it all? That's way too real for most people to be funny. I think people who found it hysterical were in serious denial.)
Here, the setting seems like more of a joke than anything. Zissou is making his last film and he's doing it on a broken down boat. Meanwhile, his arch nemesis and second ex-husband of Eleanor Zissou (Anjelica Huston), Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum), runs around doing his research on a giant floating hotel. The plot red herring of the film is Steve's search for the shark that killed his partner (Seymour Cassel). The real meat of the story concerns Steve's relationship with Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), who may or may not be Steve's son.
This is a continuation of Anderson's examination of father/son relationships from "The Royal Tennebaums." I'd like to suggest another subject because this one seems painfully worn out. I already watched a father in a Wes Anderson movie who was incapable of recognizing his own failures with his family. Why do I have to watch it again? The fact that this time it takes place on a boat doesn't really make it any different or any better.
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