Review: Bottle Rocket

A Wes Anderson film is one that stands out from the rest, originating from a genre typical of quirky artistic production with a twist of quasi-bohemian character portrayals, showered in wisecracking humour. These traits are all significant characteristics of the director’s first feature-length film, ‘Bottle Rocket’, which – although not being a commercial success at its time – gradually gained a cult status and easily became one of the funniest films of the 1990’s.

Though known mainly for his distinctive visuals and awe-inspiring camera angles, this film features aspects that are only few and far between that of what we’d consider ‘typical’ Wes style. That said, Anderson’s comedic flare is made evident within minutes of the opening scenes; the almost pitiful stupidity of the character Dignan – played by Owen Wilson which is in itself triumphant – is brilliantly conveyed though his oddball and almost outlandish qualities.

The film begins with three ambitious individuals all grouped together by their sensation seeking desire for robbery. This activity however proves itself no mean feat for the trio as they come across several difficulties, clashing with each other regularly and disagreeing relentlessly on ideas – Dignan: “He’s out. And you’re out, too. And I dont think I’m in, either. No gang!”  This sort of systematic mischievousness is not only an engine for humour though and Wes makes this very clear as the film develops; through a simple twist of fate, one of the gang members, Anthony – played by Luke Wilson, Owen’s brother – stumbles upon what he considers ‘love’ at an unlikely motel. The director then clearly enjoys fixing the audience into situations where they can engage with several emotions, inducing necessary levity into what is essentially a comedy crime drama. But, don’t get me wrong, this is no gross tearjerker with qualities that can only be likened to that of a romantic comedy (thank the lord).bottle rocket 2

Not only is this film void of any horrifyingly average narrative, wasting away in some unending cesspool of sub-standard cinema, but it also features scenes worthy of the highest quality of film. One of the final scenes which sees the trio’s last attempt at robbing a factory safe – of course before it going ever awry – can only be understood as possibly one of the most spectacularly funny scenes in movie history. A bold statement? Acknowledging the whipping excitement of the characters before realising their irreversible blunder is something only true comedy fans can appreciate.

What is more universally agreed upon is the admirable structure of the film. Wes has no interest in mimicking the generic which, although perhaps makes him more liable to significant critique, heightens the filmmaker’s devil-may-care attitude to authentic motion picture.  Perhaps the approach taken ran too much on the unrealistic stream of events and could have benefitted from a more structural standpoint, but to say this broke away from the quality of the film is ignore the director’s talent.

bottle rocket 3Ultimately, Wes Anderson makes it very clear that you can find curiosity and interest in the relatively mundane lifestyles of a set of ambitious amateur criminals. Put bluntly, narrative doesn’t need to be elaborate and expected to entertain the modern audience. The production prides itself on an avalanche of comedy created from the very offset, something which is always refreshing to see in any director’s first feature film.

This film is part of Picturehouse’s ‘We Love Wes’ season at York’s very own City Screen. Throughout the term, showings of every Wes film will be available to watch to celebrate the release of his upcoming and hugely anticipated comedy-drama, The Grand Budapest Hotel’. Get yourself down there!