Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
It has been a minor movie miracle to see Bill Murray’s evolution from witty wisenheimer to wistful loner. He’s still a riot, but in the films of Wes Anderson — for whom Murray is a muse, and vice versa — the only person he effectively puts down is himself.
Anderson’s The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou, from 2004, lacked the director’s previous snappy comic rhythms, but not themes of life’s zest lost, charmingly idiosyncratic characters and sets and locales springing to life from the far corners of the imagination.
Murray is an undersea filmmaker whose passions are drained — his crew isn’t having fun, there’s no spark in his adulterous tendencies toward wife Eleanor (Anjelica Huston) and a jaguar shark has eaten his best friend. As Steve seeks vengeance, he meets Ned (Owen Wilson), who claims to be Steve’s illegitimate son. He joins Team Zissou for a mission on which the revenge wanes into more important interpersonal connection.
Zissou’s adventure blends Jacques Cousteau’s authenticity with Jerry Bruckheimer’s overwrought production — all the gunfights and action sequences resembling the Beastie Boys’ ramshackle lo-fi “Sabotage” video.
And when Murray verbalizes emotions not for laughs but for brutal honesty, they’re either precisely cutting or insightfully sad for a man facing mortality and fallibility on all fronts.This character study’s second-hour payoff turned more somber than what Anderson acolytes were used to. Still, The Life Aquatic delivered a loving lament for the death of romantic, robust boyhood imagination with great subtlety and transcendent use of Sigur Rós.