I watched The Life Aquatic tonight. It was a fun movie. It followed the trend of setting a somewhat retro mood, like The Royal Tennenbaums, which was made by the same director, and Napoleon Dynamite. It was the story of a worn-out Jacques Cousteau-type undersea documentarian named Steve Zissou (Bill Murray). Zissou is on a revenge quest to kill the shark that ate his best friend. Plus, he’s filming the quest to make into his next movie.
Anyway, the movie had plenty of silly and funny bits, but wasn’t overdone. Given that the movie has such a ridiculous premise, it’s amazing that it all seems so real. A lot of its success depended on the performance of Bill Murray, who I think is a brilliant comic actor. He doesn’t have to be outrageous to be funny. Murray’s humour comes from the deadpan delivery of his lines and his general demeanour. A simple facial expression carries him a long way.
The details in this movie also make it charming. Because Zissou is way past his prime, all of the props and fittings on his ship are straight out of the 1960’s. During the documentary tour of his ship, Zissou’s voiceover talks about the kitchen, which he explains has “some of the ship’s most advanced equipment.” Throughout the movie, you see the crew enjoying some pretty exotic meals, like lobster and champagne, and some pretty delicious looking brochettes. No one makes a big deal of these kind of details. They just kind of exist in the world of the film, and that’s cool.
The movie also succeeds because of its development of character relationships. Zissou’s illigitimate son (Owen Wilson) meets him for the first time at the beginning of the movie and their relationship transforms Zissou. A pregnant magazine reporter (Cate Blanchette) provides love interest for both father and son, further complicating their relationship. Finally Zissou’s struggle with his own reputation and personality make for some interesting moments.
This is definitely not your average Hollywood pace. The pace is slow, but had some sudden and surprising quirks that kept my attention. I recommend it. 🙂