As anyone who's ever watched Finding Nemo knows, you want to stay far, far away from the jellies. But Riggan, unfortunately, has obviously never seen this particular Pixar joint.
The very first thing we see before the movie proper begins is a quick shot of the beach and a bunch of dying jellyfish washed ashore. It's brief and hardly memorable, especially compared to the next shot: an older guy levitating in his underwear.
But when we see the same scene again, this time with seagulls that have come to snack on the jellies, we know it's important.
But let's back up a bit to a time before jellyfish. No, not the Precambrian period, we're talking about the credits. We see Raymond Carver's "Late Fragment" appear on screen, and then slowly disappear as the title comes into view. But unlike the previous credits which were wholly gone, "Late Fragment" left behind four individual letters that, read from top left to bottom right, spell the worst four letter world of them all: "amor" (which means love, in case you were wondering).
So, jellyfish = love: sounds simple enough to us. But why are the jellyfish symbolic of love? Does it have to do with their natural qualities? Their fragile yet dangerous nature, with the power to both hurt and be hurt very easily? It's never really clear, but what is clear is that just like the jellyfish are dying…and so is the love in Riggan's life.
When he encounters them in the ocean he's trying to drown himself. If he had succeeded it would have been his own body, not the jellyfish, washed up purple and bloated on the sand.
But instead, he feels their stings:
RIGGAN: […] like someone was holding a frying pan on my back, really burning.
So maybe our lovely jellyfish aren't so depressing anymore. Maybe it's the sting of love, whether his love of himself or his love of his family—or perhaps his family's love for him—that brings him up out of his watery grave.
Yeah. The jellies in Finding Nemo were way less complicated.