Logline: An aspiring criminal trio plans to pull off a set of heists in order to start a life of crime.
“Let’s get lucky.”
This 1996 crime comedy marks Wes Anderson’s directorial debut, as well as the initial feature for acting brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, who take up arms as the film’s lead characters. Bottle Rocket is the full-length version of Anderson’s 13-minute short film of the same name.
The story catches up with Dignan (Owen Wilson) attempting to “break out” Anthony (Luke Wilson) from a psychiatric facility, of which he has checked himself in voluntarily. From there the friends add Bob (Robert Musgrave) as a getaway driver in order to pull off a heist that will hopefully gain them favor with local crime boss, Mr. Henry (James Caan).
The main trio is as dim witted as they are loveable. Anthony claims to suffer from exhaustion despite his sister’s claims that he’s yet to work a day in his life. Dignan, the ring leader, possesses enough energy for three people, yet isn’t quite sure how to use it effectively. Bob has substantial amounts of wealth but lives in fear of his older brother, who constantly belittles him and the rest of the gang. As the eccentric nature of the characters materializes, each actor nails their respective portrayals within the gang of misfits. In particular, Owen Wilson thrives as Dignan — one of the more peculiar and quirky characters ever to grace the independent scene.
The film does not lack in special sequences, constantly bringing a smile to the viewer’s face. Namely a target practice scene, several genuine heart to heart exchanges, and some of the most carefully planned and poorly executed heists ever put on screen. In typical Anderson fashion, the shots are carefully framed and there’s a strong sense of passion for the on-screen world in addition to the characters that inhabit it.
The film does challenge viewers to pay attention to subtext. Why are the characters behaving this way? Why is this lifestyle important to them? It’s low-key, often subtle hilarity and the viewer should be detail oriented, as some of the best jokes can easily go unnoticed in the background of a scene (“That was a stop sign…”) (“How does an asshole like Bob get such a great kitchen?!”)
Bottle Rocket is more than worth the watch simply to see Anderson’s introduction to the indie world and to mark the arrival of one of the more unique footings in today’s film industry. Made with confidence, charm, and quite a bit of wit, Bottle Rocket is a laid-back joyride.
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Wes Anderson inteviewed by Noah Baumbach about Bottle Rocket: