Listen now | This week is Molly Movie Club’s first Wes Anderson movie: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. We both felt similarly about this movie - it just doesn’t quite work. Anderson is a talented, quirky director with a fantastic visual style, but The Life Aquatic
I enjoyed watching the movie but I found Murrays character to be very selfish with no redeeming traits and he uses all of the people around him to help get what he wants which made the jaguar shark scene fall flat for me.
I like Life Aquatic the most out of all Anderson movies. It feels like it has some substance, some real people and issues underneath all that flashy visuals. Other Anderson movies are all style with almost no substance, but here I feel and cared for the characters and their feeling.
I always attributed it to Noah Baumbach writing but who knows? Casey observation about inversion of Anderson method might be the reason too: naive look at serious stuff is still touching, while other his films have all style and no point to them.
Re: visuals, everything in this is supposed to look like it was shot by an unprofessional crew of marine biologist, not filmmakers. I think film communicates it very well. At least, I never had problems understanding the intention here and I loved it.
I agree with FlyingWaffle that Murray drags everything down. The movie has a lot of emotional beats on paper, but Murray doesn’t sell them. In particular, I never bought that he cared about Esteban, which is supposed to be the main emotional hook that kicks everything off.
The flat delivery in Wes Anderson films can work really well. There are lines in his films like “I crashed my motorcycle into a wall, on purpose” or “My mom is mad because I threw a rock through the window. She’s still picking out glass from her hair” where I think the flat delivery elevates them and adds emotional weight. It’s like the characters are reaching out for acknowledgement and connection, but using their deadpan jadedness as a shield, and giving themselves an “out” where they can play it off as a joke or misunderstanding or ironic pun of it doesn’t go over well. The contrast between vulnerability and guardedness helps express how heavy of a weight they’re carrying.
But I don’t get that feeling from Murray here. It doesn’t feel like he’s suppressing his emotions or shielding himself from anything. He just seems bored and uninterested. So why should I be interested in him?
I have to say, I actually enjoyed watching it. I read it more like Ed Wood-esque disjointed film with weird tonal shifts. The thing is, he does not make the parody/farce obvious enough, the production value is too high and the writing is too clever to register as badly made on purpose. At the same time, I really think that's what he was going for. It's like the crew was embarking on an adventure that is a bad version of Moby Dick. Anderson referenced Moby Dick a few times, in addition to the hunting of the jaguar shark, there's when Ned says he comes from Kentucky, Zissou replies that it is landlocked and that's the first thing that is discussed in Moby Dick. He also kills Ned and makes Steve Zissou survive, which is anticlimactic and the reverse of Moby Dick. But for some reason it is not funny enough, or meaningful enough, it's just kind of there.
What I liked more is the naive tone, it's like we are watching the world through the eyes of a kid and I liked that idea. There's the stop-motion, the fictional animals, and an overall tone of wonderment. I especially liked the ending when people come together, it's like it is the capacity for wonderment that unites the crew.
The movie reminded me of Michel Gondry. I have not seen Be Kind Rewind but from what I saw in the trailer I think the parody comes across better in that one.
Thank you for the episode!