Keep your head above water
The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
Review by Ross Anthony

Be forewarned, this is an odd film. Generally, I like odd. But odd does not always equal good, fresh, entertaining etc. "Punch Drunk Love" was odd, but I did not quite appreciate it's dissonance.

Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, a possibly washed up (sorry couldn't resist the pun) diving documentary filmmaker. He fancies himself worthy of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Jacques Cousteau, but is not above owning his many faults. Murray is awesome. He captures the insanity, dignity, vulnerability, and foolishness of Zissou with great range, subtlety and ease. Anderson has written a wonderful character in Zissou, and "Life Aquatic" gives us a seaside view into a developmentally important time in Zissou's aging life.

Add to that, Owen Wilson as Ned, Zissou's probably-son. At the age of 30, Ned introduces himself to Zissou who surprisingly embraces his newfound maybe-son, but with an awkward distance that Anderson works out through the length of the film. That relationship is the heart of the film. Whenever Wilson and Zissou are alone on screen, there's magic, potency enough to bring tears to viewers.

But the film concerns itself with other matters, Zissou's declining career, as he struggles to keep his lifestyle afloat. Anderson employs a deadpan poke-funnery of 70's style cheesy production. Occasionally, that's funny, but many times it's not. In fact, perhaps I missed the nudge-nudge-wink-wink humor, but I find the first half of the picture quite lacking in comedy and substance. And that lack spills into the second half as well.

Still, Murray, Wilson and their characters are so solid that I am heavily involved in their development. Also, DaFoe is surprisingly absolutely hilarious as the hard-nosed German with emotional sensitivity of an adolescent. (I had no idea he was so short). He, like Wilson, takes on a role that shatters previous castings. Bud Cort (Harold of "Harold and Maude") in a smaller role, plays the bond-stooge. It's always nostalgic to see him on film again. Those of us who feel emotionally attached to him as Harold will be happy to see his youthful smile break through an aged outer body.

Overall, un-evenly entertaining. Rich quality moments somewhat make up for substantial downtime. Admirably, and undoubtedly, this will prove a risky film. I wouldn't be surprised if many people detest it, while still others praise it without restraint.

Murray says, "...You're not stopping and selling every moment as you would in an ordinary comedy. It's more about showing up in the moment..."

  • The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou. Copyright © 2004. Rated R.
  • Starring Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Willem DaFoe, Jeff Goldblum, Michael Gambon, Noah Taylor, Bud Cort.
  • Directed by Wes Anderson.
  • Screenplay by Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach.
  • Produced by Wes, Barry Mendel, Scutt Rudin at Touchstone/American Empirical.

Grade..........................B+ (2.5/4)

Copyright © 1998-2023 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 10-Jul-2012 10:27:12 PDT