Release: 4th December 2017
Format: BR / DVD
James Caan stars in this crime comedy directed by Wes Anderson. Three friends, Anthony (Luke Wilson), Dignan (Owen C. Wilson) and Bob (Robert Musgrave) all dream of being on America’s most wanted list as notorious thieves. The problem is that they’re not very good. As the trio embark upon a series of hare-brained schemes to rob people and companies of their hard-earned money, they realise that they have to work together and learn the true value of friendship.
Wes Anderson often gets the adjective ‘quirky’ through at him. This is a man who picks society’s more unruly and nebbish eccentrics with which to view through his unique storybook aesthetic; once described as “fabulist”. He is a true American voice building honest narratives about what it means to belong, and his début feature Bottle Rocket is a much tamer version of that voice.
Predominantly a road movie / crime caper, Bottle Rocket is the sort of early dawn oddity that in retrospect seems to be Anderson finding his feet. Yes, it has some of his now signature elements, but it also lacks the confidence and jazz-like rhythms we’ve come to appreciate with the likes of The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The most striking element of Bottle Rocket is it’s seeming obsession with childlike adults; there is an unshakable sense of The Little Rascals and Charlie Brown about it. Whether watching Owen Wilson’s wide eyes Dignan concoct an endless array of cockamamie plans, or watching a lug called Future Man, bully his 20-something year old brother, or meeting grown ass career criminals with names like Applejack and Rowboat. A sense of the absurd constantly lingers over Bottle Rocket like an oppressive heat.
It is also a film of two halves, and one half is most definitely better than the other. Bottle Rocket was based on a short film previously produced by the same team of Anderson and the Wilson brothers, with this feeling very much like an elongated rendition of said short. The motel and love story element of the film feels forced and uninspiring, while the narrative promenade that fills most of act two could be generously described as tiring. The second half of the film, meanwhile, is vintage Anderson. It is a bittersweet lullaby of friendship and feckless losers. Owen and Luke Wilson share a sweet chemistry that pays off big time as they bounce between side characters and a villainous James Caan (who one assumes is just playing a version of himself). But it is this tender relationship between real life brothers that creates early incarnations of what would soon become a staple of Anderson’s films; tender idiocy.
So Bottle Rocket is far from Anderson’s best film, but it is still a wonderful dose of cinema. It is a breath of fresh air, a film brimming with hope and levity. The closing shot may have a whiff of uncertainty about it, but Anderson has never looked back since. From here he would move on to Rushmore, and a career of poetic gems and eventually a plethora of Oscar nominations. A bottle rocket is a wild and unpredictable firework, so it makes perfect sense then that Anderson would make a career out of presenting the lives of the capricious and the neurotic. After all, he has always been a little quirky.
Film Grade: B-
Some right bloody lovely features, even if one of them (2008 retrospective) has horrible audio.
Special Features Grade: B-
A great film, although I’d still like to know how an asshole like Bob get’s such a great kitchen!
Overall Grade: B-