Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) watches life swim by through his own uniquely funny and perceptive lens. The seafaring Life Aquatic, his first film co-written with Noah Baumbach instead of Owen Wilson, hits some heavy weather. But Anderson holds steady to the delicate emotions that run beneath this stormy comedy of betrayal, death and forgiveness. The inimitable Bill Murray plays Steve Zissou, a Jacques Cousteau-like oceanographer in career decline. Steve heads out to sea like Ahab to exact revenge on the jaguar shark that killed his pal (Seymour Cassel). He bumps egos with his ex-wife (Anjelica Huston), his rival (Jeff Goldblum), a journalist (Cate Blanchett) and a pilot (Wilson) who claims to be his ba d son. Wilson drops the ironic smirk to give a sincerely affecting performance. His scenes with Murray provide the ballast when the script veers off into unconvincing pirate attacks and animated sea creatures. When in doubt, just watch Murray do his Bill dance to the bizarro music in his head.
From The Archives Issue 431: September 27, 1984