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The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (free)

  • Memorial Union Terrace 800 Langdon Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

Like him or lump him, there's no denying that writer-director Wes Anderson has cultivated his own distinctive and therefore frequently polarizing style. His movies tend to feature sizable ensembles consisting of far-flung characters that function as ad hoc dysfunctional families, biological or otherwise. Always present, too, and intended to somewhat offset the tension, is a sense of winking whimsy. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou (2004) represents an apex of sorts for this Anderson formula. The Jacques Cousteau-teasing and -honoring film centers on an the titular eccentric oceanographer (Bill Murray), who sets out to exact revenge on the exotic shark that ate his partner. His crew play the role of a family poised to have its rivets come tumbling off. Seu Jorge plays a safety expert who often adjourns to the wings to sing covers of David Bowie songs in Portuguese, Owen Wilson is a self-effacing regional airline pilot who might be Zissou's illegitimate son, Cate Blanchett is a flinty journalist along for the journey, Willem Dafoe plays a high-strung first mate, and so on. It's a lot to take in, but Anderson pairs the film's surface quirks with a sturdy examination of loss (some of it sudden and wrenching) and the self-discovery that's sometimes set in motion when people's worlds are upended. —David Wolinsky