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Moriarty's Script Review! Anderson and Baumbach Live THE LIFE AQUATIC!

Hi, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab...

I never read RUSHMORE. I read about half of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS before I had to set it down the first time. I am a firm believer that Wes Anderson movies in screenplay form bear little or no resemblance to Wes Anderson films in the theater. The scripts are more literary. They’re quieter. The films themselves are so exquisitely, carefully designed that half of the experience of watching one is getting lost in the corners, away from the things you’re normally supposed to be paying attention to. The Dalmatian mice in TENENBAUMS. The band-aids in BOTTLE ROCKET. That room with all the board games seemingly ever made, all jammed in on top of each other. The wallpaper. The sets for Max Fisher’s plays in RUSHMORE. None of that is in his screenplays. It’s in his head until it’s on the screen. So why in the world would I pick up a copy of THE LIFE AQUATIC, written by Anderson with co-writer Noah Baumbach?

Because, silly rabbits, I have impulse control issues. Look, all flurries of verbiage aside, Wes Anderson is one of the most interesting filmmakers working right now, the love child of J.D. Salinger and Hal Ashby. What really makes me sick about the guy is that he’s basically my age. I know how I feel about myself and my status in the rank and file in Hollywood (I’m a guy who has never gotten a film greenlit, and that means I’m nothing but a question mark right now), and I am amazed to see guys my age or younger who have put it all together. I have boundless respect for the particular corner of the cinematic universe that Anderson’s carving out for himself, film by fascinating film. He’s like PT Anderson to me, or David Fincher, or Spike Jonze, or the Coen Brothers. He is a genre all by himself. And no matter how much I am convinced that I’m not going to really get the whole thing off the page, I still find that I’m intensely, almost preposterously curious about what Anderson’s up to.

Basically, I broke down on the plane to Montreal. It’s a long script, 140 pages, but it doesn’t read like a long film. Instead, it almost feels like a sketch, a suggestion of the film that will eventually result. There’s a deceptive simplicity to the way the script is built that makes you think nothing’s happening at first. It is, though. Right up front, we meet Steve Zissou (Bill Murray, picking another winner to follow up this fall’s LOST IN TRANSLATION), who is nothing like Jacques Cousteau. Oh, sure, he’s an oceanographer who makes a series of documentaries called “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” all about his various trips. That’s true. But Zissou is a barely functional human being who is propped up as a figurehead hero in a successful series of documentaries called “The Life Aquatic.” His wife Eleanor (I’m guessing this is the role Anjelica Huston is going to play) is the real brains of the operation, and his partner Esteban (no clue, but Willem Dafoe would be a scream in the part) is the heart of the thing. At the opening of the film, Zissou is in shock as he premieres his new documentary. In it, Esteban is eaten by the elusive jaguar shark. Unfortunately, Zissou managed to drop the camera at the crucial moment, and Esteban’s death was for nothing. The jaguar shark got away without ever being caught on film, and it took Zissou’s hopes and dreams with it. He’s at the end of his resources, not sure he will ever make another film. The premiere is a disaster, and his rival Alistair Hennessey (please let this be Jeff Goldblum... please let this be Jeff Goldblum...) relishes the opportunity to rub Zissou’s nose in it.

In the midst of this darkest hour, Zissou meets a young man named Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson, if I’m not mistaken), who may just be Zissou’s long-lost son. Plimpton has money of his own, and agrees to finance a film about the search for the jaguar shark that killed Esteban, as long as he gets to go along and get to know Zissou on the journey. Factor in the various personalities that make up the crew of Zissou’s ship and the people that they encounter along the way, and you’ve got more than enough ingredients for another quirky family comedy. Eccentricity abounds, and there are at least a dozen various character storylines to follow. Yet, somehow, Anderson manages to avoid this just being an ocean-bound TENENBAUMS. For one thing, this is an adventure movie. It’s a very strange adventure, but just this structural difference makes this a whole new experience for Anderson fans. The heart of the movie is the relationship that develops between Zissou and Ned, and the way it’s complicated by the introduction of a reporter named Jane Winslett-Richardson, from OCEANOGRAPHIC EXPLORER. This pretty much has to be Cate Blanchett, and she’ll be perfect. Watching Bill Murray and Owen Wilson compete for her, and watching how she wrestles with her own feelings for each of them... this should be a treat. It’s an exciting cast. It’s got to be amazing on that set... the energy between these people.

I’ve heard rumors about a stop-motion animation unit having been set up to handle certain elements of the film, and I guess my first thought is, “What? What the hell kind of crazy-ass thing is that?” Don’t get me wrong. I am a sucker for stop-motion animation. I just don’t know how that’s going to play in an age where most people are hypercritical of even the most photo-real digital work being done. Audiences have become harsh judges of FX work, and the slightest whiff of the fake brings out the bloodthirsty in otherwise rational fanboys. The notion of using an all stop-motion crew is pretty bold. Henry Selick tried for MONKEYBONE, but the studio lost its nerve and cut the budget and the schedule so dramatically that by the time the film was released, all the sequences that should have been filled with stop motion creatures were instead populated by actors in cheap costumes on shitty sets. Brilliant.

Maybe there’s been a shift in perception, though. One of the coolest things Jon Favreau talked about when I was on the set of ELF was how he intentionally worked with the production designer of the film to get a very Rankin-Bass animated stop-motion feel to the world. I think they nailed it, too, and there’s something really appealing about that aesthetic. I trust Anderson’s taste implicitly by this point. I trust that he’s going to create something really memorable with this script as the blueprint, and I’m excited to see it come together. If I got any of the cast mixed up above in terms of who’s playing what, I am sorry. I tried to label things as best guesses if I wasn’t sure. I haven’t seen a good cast list that matched the actors up to the characters they’re playing. I’m excited by the way I pictured the film as I read the script, but I’m more excited by the surprises I’m sure I still have in store when I actually see the world realized. All I got was a sneak peek, a little glimpse of what we’ll all get later. But it was enough to tell you it’s going to be something special, and I’ll keep my ear out for anything to report on the film in the months ahead.

"Moriarty" out.

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 13, 2003, 7:09 a.m. CST

    POSTHUMANS, coooooooooming soon!

    by thx777b


  • Sept. 13, 2003, 8:20 a.m. CST

    How can there be POSTHUMANS in 2005 ...

    by godoffireinhell

    ... when the film has not even been greenlit? And I'd rather see Cliver Barker's DREAD anyway. Not that that one has been greenlit either but I like to dream ...

  • Sept. 13, 2003, 1:13 p.m. CST


    by Live4Ten

    You want Willem Dafoe to play a character that dies in the opening of the film? Why not Jeff Goldblum or Bud Cort or Peter Stormare?

  • Sept. 13, 2003, 6:18 p.m. CST


    by evilreno

    what the heck is posthumans?

  • Sept. 13, 2003, 6:23 p.m. CST

    Kicking and Screaming

    by Famous X

    I can't wait to see what Wes Anderson's new co-writer brings to the table. Mr. Jealousy was sort of a let down.

  • Sept. 13, 2003, 8:42 p.m. CST

    P.T. good. Wes bad.

    by heywood jablomie

    Why? Because PTA makes ugly donut shops, fluorescent lighting, blue rayon suits, the trivia/video games in cheesy bars in the Valley, and 1979 iron-on-decal t shirts beautiful, soulful, and sad. Wes is Little Lord Fauntleroy suckin' on a sucker. Feh!

  • Sept. 13, 2003, 10:43 p.m. CST

    @ evilreno re: posthumans?

    by godoffireinhell

    Moriarty wrote a script titled POSTHUMAN and sold it to Revolution Studios for some serious $$$. He also wrote an adaptation of Barker's DREAD for Fox. But because he doesn't spy on himself we know nothing about either of the two.

  • Sept. 13, 2003, 10:53 p.m. CST

    thanks, godoffireinhell

    by evilreno

    i had no clue. didn't think they were anderson movies. by the way, wes anderson is pretty damned great. rushmore is one of the few movies i could stand to watch repeatedly and bottlerocket was great too. i like 'the royal tennenbaums' as well, but not as much. i hope life aquatic is good. yippee. wow, i sound stupid in this post.

  • Sept. 13, 2003, 11:20 p.m. CST

    Broken Glass

    by Linus

    While I am sad that Wes won't be writing this with Owen Wilson, I am very happy to hear that he's working with Noah Baumbach. I love the little stuff this guy has done, (although I do admit Mr. Jealousy wasn't that great.) But Kicking and Screaming is one of the great overlooked gems out there. Chris Eigeman placing the piece of paper with "broken glass" on the actual pile of broken glass, rather than clean it up himself? Brilliantissimo!

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 2:29 a.m. CST

    All Revolutions Commercials

    by AlwaysThere

    2 locations: &

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 11:32 a.m. CST

    Okay, let's get the Wes Anderson quoting started...

    by JQuintana

    "Were you in the shit?" "Yeah, I was in the shit."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 11:34 a.m. CST

    And again!

    by JQuintana

    "Don't pay any attention to them, did you see what they were wearing?" "Yeah, it was pretty cool..."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 11:38 a.m. CST

    And again!

    by JQuintana

    "These are O.R. scrubs." "Oh, are they?"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 11:44 a.m. CST

    Goddamnit, do I have to do all the Anderson/Wilson quotes myself

    by JQuintana

    "112 pounds, black hair, glasses, oval face."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 11:47 a.m. CST


    by JQuintana

    kumar: "I don't know man. i lose my touch..." dignan: "Did you ever have a touch to lose, man?!?!?!?!"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 11:51 a.m. CST

    Hotdamn, somebody stop me!!

    by JQuintana

    "I'm Jerry and this is my associate Cornelius."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 11:58 a.m. CST

    Been quoting the man now for more than 20 minutes non-stop

    by JQuintana

    Everybody knows Custer died at Little Big Horn. What this book pre-supposes is.... maybe he didn't?"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 12:01 p.m. CST

    I am going to keep quoting Anderson/Wilson lines for at least an

    by JQuintana

    "Please stop belittling me."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 12:04 p.m. CST

    JQuintana (wiping sweat from brow) "Tag-team, anyone?"

    by JQuintana

    "Say a prayer for surf boy, wherever he is."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 12:07 p.m. CST

    I will continue to quote; defiantly!!

    by JQuintana

    "Can the boy tell time?" "Oh my lord, no"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 12:15 p.m. CST

    Come on guys, I'm dying out here, for pete's sake, I'm dying out

    by JQuintana

    "He's out. You're out too. And I'm not so sure I'm in either! No gang!"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 12:22 p.m. CST

    I just wet my pants, you bastards. All because no one would take

    by JQuintana

    "I don't give a shit about the Barraccudas, but fuck it, I'm building it anyway!"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 12:26 p.m. CST

    Nearing the hour mark. Pants currently "uncomfortable".

    by JQuintana

    "Hey amigo, you in the army, yes?" "No, I just have short hair!"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 12:37 p.m. CST

    Good night and god bless everyone. If I've entertained just one

    by JQuintana

    "And I can't fix the CAR because I don't have the TOOLS! And even I did have the tools I don't know if I could fix a car like this!"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 2:13 p.m. CST

    Anderson Quote!

    by SuperDuperDude

    "There he goes"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 2:22 p.m. CST


    by SuperDuperDude

    "Dudley suffers from a rare disorder combining the symptoms of amnesia, dyslexia, and colorblindness, with a highly acute sense of hearing" <from across the hall> "I'm not colorblind am I?"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 2:27 p.m. CST

    Yet Another

    by SuperDuperDude

    "of course it's dark... it's a suicide note"

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 2:28 p.m. CST

    Yes, I Know...

    by SuperDuperDude

    that they were all Royal Tenenbaum quotes... but that was my favorite of his movies. I'm looking forward to his next movie.

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 2:59 p.m. CST

    Well I guess I'll join in.....

    by magyarman

    "Nah, it was the hand job."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 3:05 p.m. CST

    .....and one more.....

    by magyarman

    "I wrote a hit play and directed it. So I'm not sweating it either." I want to see the play "Little Juan and 40 Ounce".

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 4:45 p.m. CST

    Did you just say you were on mescaline?

    by CoolMonkeyHead

    "I did indeed. Very much so."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 8:19 p.m. CST

    I like this one

    by FloydGandoli

    "Of course, your mother and I made certain sacrifices having children, but, God no."

  • Sept. 14, 2003, 11:59 p.m. CST

    by Harold Spengler

    "Someone should tell that Irish gorilla to keep his trap shut." "He's not Irish, he's Scottish." "Whatever. That mick just made my list of things to do today.

  • Sept. 15, 2003, midnight CST

    did you just call me 'Coltrane'?

    by Harold Spengler

    What if I did? There's nothing you can do about it. You wanna talk some jive? I'll talk some jive like you've never heard!

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 1:09 a.m. CST

    one for the team!

    by imageburn13

    will you marry me lae-chan?

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 1:11 a.m. CST

    one more!

    by imageburn13

    "enough with the guns g, things are getting loco...ok, kisses and were out."

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 1:22 a.m. CST

    and my favorite, really,

    by imageburn13

    "you were supposed to say the old man likes his canoli...'i didnt want to say it' 'DONT FUCK WITH MY PLAY!"

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 3:42 a.m. CST

    "So were you in the shit?" "Yeah I was in the shit."

    by DirtyDingusMcGee

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 9:06 a.m. CST

    my turn again!

    by JQuintana

    Eli Cash: "Why would she have told you that, I wonder?" Richie Tenenbaum: "I might very well ask you the same question." Eli Cash: "And rightly so..."

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 9:07 a.m. CST

    And another!

    by JQuintana

    "I know you, asshole!"

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 9:09 a.m. CST

    And another!

    by JQuintana

    With friends like you, who needs friends?"

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 9:10 a.m. CST

    And one for the road...

    by JQuintana

    Futureman: "Hold on, Bob, you're only going to make this take longer!"

  • Sept. 15, 2003, 10:42 p.m. CST

    A quote

    by Mudas

    Wha - why is there tape on your nose? (Dignan) Exactly!

  • Sept. 16, 2003, 11:50 a.m. CST

    The Life Aquatic

    by CactusEd2003

    I wish someone would post this screenplay on the internet. Anyone?

  • Sept. 24, 2003, 4:35 a.m. CST

    One more before I go.....

    by magyarman

    "Where's that red one gonna go?"

  • Sept. 24, 2003, 4:39 a.m. CST

    ok one more, really.....

    by magyarman

    "Piranha's, really?" "I'm talking to a guy in South America."