On the run from Johnny Law. It ain’t no trip to Cleveland.
Three years ago my partner and I dug into Wes Anderson’s filmography to check out the films that we had not yet seen. We started with Moonrise Kingdom, which was an absolute joy. We then moved on to Rushmore, which is brilliant and one of my favorite films. After that was The Darjeeling Limited, which was funny and visually interesting but not quite up to par with the rest of Wed Anderson’s filmography. We then decided to give Bottle Rocket a go.
Halfway into Bottle Rocket my partner and I looked at each other and both said, “I’m not really into it.” We paused it and moved on with our lives. It sat in my video library paused at 45 minutes for three whole years, the progress bar staring at my each time I was looking for something to watch. I finally got back to it and watched it (starting over from the beginning).
Bottle Rocket tells the story of three friends, Dignan (Owen Wilson), Anthony (Luke Wilson), and Bob (Robert Musgrave), and their amateur attempts at robberies. Ultimately, it’s a film about friendship, which I think most Wes Anderson films are. Dignan is the mastermind behind all of the heists, Anthony is his friend who tags along, and Bob, always in a strange-looking suit, is the friend who happens to have a car.
If you’ve watched other Wes Anderson films, you’ll recognize some familiar faces. The performances are pretty good, but nothing spectacular. Dignan was getting on my nerves by the end, especially his child-like innocence.
Bottle Rocket is pretty funny, and it has some really standout scenes (the opening, buying the guns, the bookstore, and the final heist). The great scenes stick out because the rest of it pales in comparison. A lot more could have been done with the story. It goes places, but the places it goes don’t really have many consequences. The characters don’t grow or discover something more about themselves.
The first act is strong, but it starts to slip when they get to the motel. After that, Bottle Rocket is a bit of a rollercoaster. Even at 90 minutes, it felt like it could have been trimmed down. Anthony’s romance with Inez is a bit creepy and ultimately inconsequential. The movie goes out on a high point with the final heist and final scene, though.
It would have been interesting to watch Wes Anderson’s filmography in order, as I think the evolution of his style, storytelling abilities, and confidence would be apparent from film to film. Bottle Rocket is his weakest film.
Bottle Rocket is the most skippable of Wes Anderson’s films, but worth watching if you’re a completionist or interested in where the director began. There are some trademark Wes Anderson jokes, characters, and shots, but they’re not as developed and mature as even his next feature, Rushmore.
The Bottom Line: Bottle Rocket is Wes Anderson’s Reservoir Dogs but not as confident and fully formed.