What better way to begin a film blog than with a slightly more obscure film by a not so obscure director? Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket was a character-driven, fantastically written romp. It had all the elements of comedy you would expect from the Wilson brothers, but carried so much heart with it.
Anthony (Luke Wilson) has just been released from a psychiatric hospital and is now trying to get his adult life together. His friend Dignan (Owen Wilson) could probably use some time in the hospital, as he is constantly concocting crazy new schemes to commit crime. Anthony wants to be a good friend to Dignan and ends up getting roped into an overblown heist scheme. Along the way, while the boys hide out in a hotel, he meets Inez (Lumi Cavazos) and falls deeply in love. Now he’s unsure whether or not he should quit the job and start a life with Inez, betraying Dignan and possibly losing his friendship.
Let me tell you, this is an incredibly basic outline of the plot, but you should watch this yourself. While it sounds bleak and dramatic, the chemistry the Wilson brothers have is incredible. The screenwriting allows for them to talk rapidly over each other, arguing like real best friends would. They know what the other is thinking and can counter preemptively, making for some really funny conversations. Half of what’s said in these dialogues is lost to the audience, making it that much funnier. The action is very much in a now well-known Wes Anderson style, though with the flexibility and energy of a young director.
The story ultimately revolves around friendship and the all-too-common Anderson theme of fatherless children. Anthony and Dignan are both looking to become men without a real example of what a real man looks like. Anthony thinks it is in helping friends and making friends, and Dignan is convinced that he can find a father figure in Mr. Henry, who has accepted Dignan in his band of criminals. Comedy comes out of the hyper-realistic reactions to surreal events, and the sheer deadpan way that lines are delivered. In the end, however, I was left feeling emotionally raw. It was great.
This film, made in 1996, is the breakout film for Wes Anderson. Anderson’s style is so quirky and disorienting that it often can put off unprepared audiences. For Bottle Rocket, Anderson hadn’t figured out his style completely yet, so it can be far more appealing to a wider audience. The usual color themes, camera angles, and set designs are greatly downplayed, making for subtler humor and a more believable world.
As far as Wes Anderson movies go, I’d say this is one of the best. As films in general go, I’d give it a 9 out of 10 for the strong characters, beautiful story, and unforced comedy. It was just chemistry!
If you want to see Bottle Rocket, it’s a part of the Criterion Collection, so it may be on Hulu Plus. It is also available on Netflix instant play. I’m also pretty sure you could find it at your local library! I did!
Go watch this movie and let me know what you think. Please feel free to comment and discuss.