The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)

life aquatic with steve zissou poster 2004 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Great cast and look

My least favorite Anderson film, can't get into the story

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Studio:  Touchstone Pictures

Genre(s):  Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):  November 20, 2004 (Premiere)/December 25, 2004 (US)

MPAA Rating:  R


I order you to have fun exploring the ocean!

Adventurer Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) is running on empty.  His documentaries are floundering, his marriage to Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) is falling apart, and his money is running dry.  When his longtime partner Esteban du Plantier (Seymour Cassell) is eaten by an undocumented shark, Zissou vows revenge!  Teamed with his newly discovered son Edward “Ned” Plimpton (Owen Wilson), Zissou and his crew of the Belafonte are out to hunt the jaguar shark.

Directed by Wes Anderson and written by Anderson and Noah Baumbach, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a comedy-drama along the lines of Anderson’s other outings.  The movie was met with compliments and criticism and Bill Murray was praised for his leading role.  It was also released in a remastered edition as part of the Criterion Collection (Criterion #300).


Pointing is fun!

I love Wes Anderson movies and think he is one of the most inventive directors around today…and this movie is my least favorite movie of his.  Blurring the lines between drama, comedy, and fantasy, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou never quite hits the mark I want it to hit.

The problem with the movie is the story which is all over the place.  It is meant to be a Moby Dick type tale about obsession in addition to the story of a man coming to terms with his life (plus a bit of Jacques Cousteau thrown in).  This is hard to bring to the screen and as a result many “side-quest” are set up which sometimes relate and other times just feel like filler.  The course of Zissou’s character is a strong story, but I just don’t like the entire path it took.


Maybe if this works, I can buy a bigger sub

The cast (like all of Anderson’s film) is fantastic.  Murray’s turn as Zissou continues his transformation to “dramatic actor” by having roles with lots of real life comedy in them.  Owen Wilson’s character is a bit harder to define and I can’t always see where he is trying to go with him.  I am a big fan of Anjelica Huston who always plays great cold and aloof characters with heart, and Jeff Goldblum as her sometimes lover and Zissou rival also plays his normal role.  Willem Dafoe always changes up his roles and his devoted Zissou character does have his moments (like the one with the flag near the end).  Cate Blanchette’s role as the reporter Jane Winslett-Richardson was meant to be Gwenyth Paltrow Other players include Anderson regular Seymour Cassell in a small role, Michael Gambon, Bud Court, and Seu Jorge as the Portuguese David Bowie singing Pelé dos Santos.


The Jaguar!!!

Visually, Wes Anderson movies always excel.  This movie is much more surreal than many other Anderson films and has a lot of fantasy aspects to the visuals.  I don’t really like this.  Wes Anderson is already a surreal director and he doesn’t need to add fantasy elements to his stories to make them more surreal…it is a bit over the top.  Though I do love the Belafonte set and when they break the standard shooting to go between floors.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a movie that does grow on you a bit but doesn’t live up to many of Anderson’s other films.  Generally between this film and his follow-up film The Darjeeling Limited, fans get a bit divided on which is the least favorite.  I like The Darjeeling Limited slightly better, but Anderson has proven that he can do better.  Still, it is fun to stop by for a swim with Zissou.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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