BY ERIN TORRANCE
THE GIST: The fourth of Wes Anderson’s feature length films opens with the premiere of Steve Zissou’s (Bill Murray) most recent documentary. During the filming of this documentary, Zissou’s friend is killed by the mysterious Jaguar shark, and this forms the underlying plot of this film: Zissou’s need to exact revenge on the Jaguar shark. But atop this plot there’s also the story of the falling apart of Zissou’s marriage; the appearance of his possible son, Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson) and their attempts to forge some sort of father-son relationship; the arrival of pregnant journalist Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett); Steve and Ned’s ensuing attempts to flirt with Jane; Ned and Jane’s love affair; a pirate attack; the taking of a hostage; the bankruptcy of Zissou’s project; and his rivalry with Hennessey, a fellow wildlife/aquatic documentarian played by Jeff Goldblum. Oh, and of course, there’s also Zissou’s struggles to save his failing career and boost box office sales.
THE CHARACTER: The standout character of this film is necessarily Steve Zissou. Based on real-life aquatic life documentarian Jacques Cousteau, Zissou is a quirky middle-aged man who’s trying to make his way in murky waters. There’s nothing clear about what’s going down on his ship, the Belafonte, and yet Zissou seems able to navigate through it all. Zissou’s arrogant character seems to be balanced with a sort of sincere, flaky, human aspect that makes him more likable than may be imaginable. He floats a fine line and happens to pull in some good catches despite the mess that is his life.
THE MUSIC: The Steve vs. Pirates shootout scene aboard the Belafonte to The Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.” It’s just a perfect coupling that actually makes me think a guy in a powder blue bathrobe is pretty badass.
WHERE IT REALLY GOES WES: I’d have to say at the very, very beginning at the film premiere, especially with the framing of Zissou’s film with deep red theatre curtains, followed by the reception where we see a sort of summation of what’s to come through little hints—it’s a very dense representation of the film in its entirety.
Those fucking amateurs. You left your dog, you idiots!
– Steve Zissou