The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
And here we have another exhibit of Wes Anderson’s overly indulgent, self-absorbed hipster film-making tendencies. He gathers an incredible cast, puts them in a unique and fun setting, and then takes a shit all over everything. This movie pisses me off because it could have been amazing. It is part tribute and part parody of famous oceanographer Jacques Cousteau. Bill Murray plays the titular Steve Zissou. He goes on a quest to find a Jaguar Shark or some shit. What unfolds is little more than a series of loosely connected episodes that have only a slight relation to each other, and do nothing to develop a more robust plot. Sure, some interesting things happen like when Steve’s ship is overrun by pirates, and Bill Murray gets involved in an unexpected gun fight. But that doesn’t sustain a movie. It’s absolutely bloated in length. I would say nearly 45 minutes could have been excised and nothing much would have been lost. There isn’t much substance here. It’s meant to be whimsical, like all of Anderson’s output, but it fails at that too. It just doesn’t do anything. It isn’t worth anyone’s time.
If any movie screams the 1980s, it’s this one. Repo Man is a comedy/sci-fi about a young punk (Emilio Estevez) who drifts through life until one day he winds up working for a repossession company. Harry Dean Stanton takes him under his wing, and trains him in all the tricks of the trade that every repo man must use in order to survive their job. Everyone hates them, they get paid crap, and they work horrible hours. There isn’t much to like about the job, but once he starts, Estevez finds he has a purpose in life. He’s actually pretty good at the work.
A secondary story about a stolen Chevy Malibu slowly intersects with Estevez’s tale. Everyone wants this Malibu: criminals, the CIA, rival repo men, etc. It turns out to actually be an alien spaceship dressed up as a Malibu. Anyone who looks at contents of the trunk (and we never see what those contents are) is immediately vaporized in a blaze of green light.
Anyway, the two stories intersect in a completely absurd way. There is a lot of ironic humor. It’s not a laugh out loud comedy, but more of a “huh that’s weird and clever” kind of comedy. It’s incredibly low budget, the fight choreography is laughably terrible, the special effects are about as basic as they come, and the acting leaves a lot to be desired. But despite all those factors, the movie is as charming as hell. You can’t not like it, because it’s got heart and originality, and it’s pure fun.