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The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
4.5/5 SHADOWS MUST SEE MUST-SEE
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Wes Anderson
scr Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach
with Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Bud Cort, Noah Taylor, Seu Jorge, Robyn Cohen, Seymour Cassel
release US 10.Dec.04,
UK 25.Feb.05
Touchstone
04/US 1h59

Welcome to Team Zissou: Murray and Wilson

murray wilson blanchett
huston dafoe goldblum

24th Shadows Awards
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
CATE BLANCHETT

The Life Aquatic Wes Anderson takes another spiky, askance and hilarious look at family relationships, while at the same time paying homage to those goofy nature films of the 1970s. It's a disarmingly enjoyable film that you never want to end.

Steve Zissou (Murray) is a star marine biologist whose Life Aquatic films are just starting to lose their zing. Then his lifelong mentor (Cassel) is killed just off-camera by a mythical fish Steve dubs a jaguar shark, although no one else sees it. Now he wants revenge, but his brainy wife (Huston) wants nothing to do with it and flees into the arms of Steve's nemesis (Goldblum). Meanwhile, a young man (Wilson) who may be Steve's son shows up, as does a snoopy and very pregnant reporter (Blanchett).

The relationships get more and more complicated as the clever, hysterically funny script slices through the twisted interaction to reveal the each person's inner soul. The performances are astutely detailed, with odd dialog and actions that are both silly and natural at the same time. Each actor brings some edgy subtext to his or her character, but it's so dry and subtle that you might miss it if you're not paying attention! Murray is at his very best here; and this is perhaps Wilson's best work yet.

Anderson creates a marvellous underwater wonderland, with fantastical creatures and outrageous seascapes, while above the surface everything looks permanently stuck in a 1970s educational film--daft fashion, archaic technology, wacky camerawork--even though the story is set in the present. There's also a freewheeling sense of humour that infuses the film, from Steve's wildly varied transport methods to his nameless interns and useless dolphins. One of his crew (Jorge) even provides live background songs--namely Portuguese versions of David Bowie hits.

It's such a funny film that the serious themes almost sneak up on us. The quest to make peace with ourselves is vividly examined without ever resorting to obvious cliches, and as a result the film remains engaging right through its various twists and turns, both the hysterically funny ones and the ones that lodge a lump in the throat. Life is indeed an adventure.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 16.Nov.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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