Bottle Rocket (1996): The First Wes Anderson Masterpiece

Bottle Rocket

“Bottle Rocket” was the first movie that Wes Anderson directed, as well as wrote. He co-wrote it with one of the actors who he has collaborated with in countless other films, the famous Owen Wilson. “Bottle Rocket” is the only Wes Anderson movie I hadn’t seen yet, which was part of the motivation to see it and give it a review.

The premise is two brothers aspire to be famous thieves after one of them escapes from a mental institute. From there it explores their relationships and antics as the drama unfolds. Like most Wes Anderson it is a comedy as well as drama. The main stars are the Wilson brothers (Owen and his lesser known brother Luke).

You can see the themes and style that Wes Anderson has in the rest of his films, in this first film which in turn leads me to the assessment warning it has SPOILERS:

Pros: The Dialogue – Like Joss Whedon, Wes Anderson is a master of witty dialogue, the main difference between them is Whedon it is sometimes wit for wits-sake verses Anderson the dialgue always reveals more about the characters and relationships.

The Cinematography – Wes Anderson is known for how symmetrical all his scenes are, this is very true for his first film too where it was first established. From a broken down car slanted on the highway, to the shots of the mental hospital and any scene where someone is walking down a hallway or up or down the stairs…you can always see the angels in the scene…it his unique style and I appreciate that it has been there since the beginning.

The characters – The relationships between the characters are so fleshed out that all of them are compelling (especially the love story between Anthony (Luke Wilson) and Inez (Lumi Cavazo) and Anthony and his brother Dignan (Owen Wilson). Within this he navigates the multilingual and multicultural relationship between Anthony and Inez who is the maid at the hotel they escape to after a robbery. The brothers relationship is how they both are lost and need direction and Dignan’s creation of it through the robberies while Anthony is just trying to get back on track and after his relationship end with Enez, finds it again which in turn leads to them both having grown (her with learning English and her own feelings since she was already responsible – and Anthony finally becoming responsible). The story reminds me one of Anderson’s later movies “The Darjeeling Limited,” which also involves brother resolving their differences and growing as a family and individually. Owen Wilson is also a reckless character who is a bit of a dick (but empathetic) which I think is his shtick. Suffice to say the characters are really well done, especially for a first production.

The Ending: It is bittersweet in the best way. Character relationships are resolved, consequences happen both good and bad and the love story continues…I love the bittersweet which Wes Anderson is a master of as a storyteller.

Okay: The Music – It isn’t super memorable and kind of works at times but isn’t perfect. Not a soundtrack I would seek out except for maybe a song or two.

Robert Musgrave as Bob – Not super memorable, the weakest actor…even the minor characters make more of an impact. He just didn’t seem all that invested compared to the rest of the cast.

Cons: Dignan’s character arc – He as a character doesn’t grow. He is the same guy at the beginning and the end except he grows to respect and care for his brother and Bob…and sacrifices himself during the job for another…I thought this would lead to something more, but in the end he still the same guy in regards to how he sees his actions…versus Luke and Bob who have grown out of it.

I’m glad to have finally gotten the chance to see the film. I got to see the seeds of where Wes Anderson’s style was first in motion…I would recommend it just for that reason, he was talented from the beginning. This isn’t my favorite of his films but it is a favorite film. My favorite Wes Anderson films will be reviews for another day.

I would give this movie a 8.75 / 10.

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