One of the most discussed and notable aspects of
This trend of idiosyncrasy is continued in the next two films: in The Royal Tenenabums, the central characters wear variations of the same costumes from their childhood, trying to recreate their child prodigy days by forbidding themselves to move on with time. Ben Stiller’s widower, Chas, dresses himself and his two sons in identical Adidas tracksuits and black perms. This choice of costume – highly irregular, were it not for the film’s cartoonish tone – instantly tells the audience about Chas’ neurotic grief, and reflects the kind of stilted, troubled family relationships that define the film.
The crew of The Belafonte, Steve Zissou’s ship in The Life Aquatic…, are constantly dressed in matching uniforms (even with equivalents in swimming costume and pyjama form). With their matching red woollen hats, blue shorts and ‘Z’ insignias, Team Zissou have been dressed by Steve in order to emulate his style and (expired) fame. He has trapped everyone around him in his own glorified, nostalgic vision of himself.
Hyperbolic costumes such as these are intended for more than the comedic effect; they tell us about the characters’ convictions in their own efforts, and give us the sense that the mythical realities in which they live – be it Rushmore Academy, a retro-cool New York or an ocean full of cartoon fish – are in fact ones that they have created for themselves. It is as if the characters, like
All three of
In addition to establishing an individual style of authorship,
This sequence demonstrates a juxtaposition that explains why