Reminds me of the days that me and my buddies used to day-dream about robbing places. Then never would.
After a nervous breakdown, Anthony (Luke Wilson) “escapes” from a mental hospital and begins to hang with his best friend Dignan (Owen Wilson). They have a healthy relationship that has them planning for the future, however, they’re a bit of an odd-couple where Anthony is nice, sweet, and calmed-down, whereas Dignan is more crazy, daring, energetic, and always willing to pull of something dangerous. You know, like robbing a bookstore, which he and Anthony both do, before settling down in an hotel, out in the middle of nowhere. However, both run into the problem where one falls in love with the hotel maid, and the other just wants to find a way to get more money, and pull off more jobs, just so that he can fully live by his expectations he has set for living in the 21st Century. A lot easier said then done, however, especially when you have two different ego’s facing-off against one another.
This is one of those movies that I am, yes, reviewing again, but I feel like Bottle Rocket was in much need of a re-watch for a long while. Not only have I gotten a firmer grasp on what works in movies, and what doesn’t, but I’ve gotten way more used to Wes Anderson’s sense of style and why so many people love the hell out of it (mainly white people). And thank the heavens I did, because not only did I realize what a loser I was back in the day for giving this a “Rental“, but how much a boob I was for not even really paying attention to it because it wasn’t “like The Royal Tenebaums“.
Obviously, nothing is! Jesus, I was such a dick back in those days.
Anyway, nothing here really separates this movie from the rest of Anderson’s catalog; the colors still pop-out at you with their quirkiness, the human-tension between characters is obviously felt, and the folky, ironic soundtrack cues up just about every five seconds Anderson gets tired of silence (and there’s also a choice track by the Rolling Stones in here as well, but did I even need to say that?). So yeah, nothing really different here that you haven’t seen Anderson do or explore before, and it surely won’t change your mind on what you think of him as a director. But it’s sort of a novelty watch considering that this was his first flick, his first shot at the big-times, since all of the stuff that he does here that would soon become trademarks of his, were so fresh and vibrant during this time. Also, he added a lot of snippy, snappy writing to create an original-spin on the heist genre; although, I do feel like a bit of a moron for referring to this as something in the “heist genre”, because it really isn’t.
Yeah, there are a couple of robberies done in the span of this movie’s run-time, but they’re more or less pushed to the back-burner, so that character-development and human-interaction can take center-stage and give us a reason to care, which is exactly what happens in this movie. There aren’t any “father-son issues” to be seen here like there are with most of Anderson’s work, but the characters are still interesting enough to pay attention to, especially because they seem like normal people. Sure, they have their quirks and their personalities that may be a little rambunctious, but I never really threw out a character here as being “over-the-top” or “too zany” for me to take in for all that they are. They’re colorful, that’s for sure, but they do have living, breathing pulses underneath their image, and I think that’s where Anderson’s skill in his screenplays shine the most. Not by how funny or unlikable he make his characters be, but just by who they are, and showing that with no strings attached.
That said, it sure as hell isn’t the guy’s best work, but coming from a first-time director, I didn’t expect that. Hell, the first time watching this, I didn’t expect anything except what some consider “his masterpiece”. That was my fault then, but now, I almost feel like I actually get what Anderson is all about and I see why he makes certain decisions in terms of writing and direction, that he does. Every scene has a reasoning for being in this movie, whether it be to build character, suspense, or full knowledge of what type of world we’re placed in, and it all works well. It’s not perfect, and you can definitely tell that some of Anderson’s low-budget problems do come into play and become very noticeable around the middle-act where we spend almost too much time at the hotel, but it’s nevertheless worth paying attention to, if not to just laugh, but to be a bit touched by as well.
And that’s exactly where Anderson’s characters come into this discussion. Though the cast is small and sparse, given the material, everybody does what they can with it and makes it all the more interesting and entertaining to watch. Luke Wilson has always been my favorite Wilson brother, mainly because he has that everyday, get-to-know-me-guy type of charm that works on me, as well as it probably works on the ladies he meets. There’s just something sweet and endearing about the way he handles himself and talks to the people around him, even if those said people around him are total dicks and don’t quite know it just yet.
The perfect example of one of those people is Owen Wilson as Dignan, the type of friend nobody wants to have, but sadly do. Owen Wilson hasn’t really been showing us much of himself that’s worth loving and caring about, but he’s very good here as Dignan because he acts like a total nut, yet also gets to the bottom of this character, making him more and more endearing in the process. Dignan always senses there is a time for adventure, even when there isn’t one. He tries to get a hair-cut because he feels like he needs to “lay low” after his robbery, and he takes almost any dire situation, to the utmost sincerity, almost to where you wonder if this guy’s joking around or not. Problem is, he never is joking around and always seems like he’s ready to jump-off a building at any given second.
Dignan’s the type of wired-up dude that nobody wants to be around, but we sadly can’t get away from, and Wilson plays him to perfection, not by being funny and dead-panning his ass off, but because he’s able to let us care for the dude, even when he’s obviously not-knowing of his own stupidity. We all know that he means well, and in a way, can’t help but root him on when the going actually does get going, and he needs to man up. The climactic scene where he does finally nut up and shut up, is probably the most memorable and fun, because we too, feel the same type of adventure and fun that Dignan longs for; the only scary part is that it’s real this time, and it could end very badly for him. Good start for Owen though. Wish he took more roles such as this, and actually challenged himself for once, rather than just hanging out with the same damn crew, each and every movie.
Also, nice cameo from James Caan. Can’t get enough of them in this lifetime, so might as well take advantage of them while you still can.
Consensus: While it’s nowhere near being Wes Anderson’s best piece of work, Bottle Rocket is still an effective flick for him to get his start with because it’s heartfelt, funny, a bit weird, a little quirky, and an all around entertaining watch, regardless of if you’re white or not. Mainly though, I’d suggest you be white, because us people, we love the hell out of Wes Anderson and his whimsy! Nearly as much as we love French movies with subtitles! That’s up for debate, though….
8 / 10 = Matinee!!