Bottle Rocket

I'm on break, and that means: I have time to watch movies! Yesterday night I treated myself to a noir double bill which I'll post about later, but in the afternoon, still very much in the Anderson spirit, I re-watched his very first feature, Bottle Rocket.

It's rather strange, in a way. Bottle Rocket is clearly a Wes Anderson movie, but at the same time it doesn't have much of the characteristics we now associate with him. The camera work in particular is - dare I say it? - rather conventional, with some notable exceptions, and the frames leave a lot more breathing room. In fact, I had a rather hard time finding a screen cap that would show where Rushmore and the following movies came from.

The characters, on the other hand, couldn't have existed in any other world, especially not Dignan. Ah, Dignan. The guy who wants his friend to escape from a voluntary mental institution. The man with a 75 year plan. And his relationship with Anthony is, I think, the sweetest in all Anderson films: when Anthony insists on getting a ridiculous yellow jumpsuit like Dignan is wearing, it almost breaks your heart.

While Bottle Rocket is very Andersonion, there are several different things he could have done after this, several different directions he could have explored. He is sometimes blamed for going too precious, too emotionally remote.I kind of missed the richness here, and I have no complaints about where he's gone. It would be nice, however, to see him tackle relatively poor, not-so-highly educated characters again, because Dignan is both the most infuriating and most endearing of his characters so far.


cjKennedy said...


I think the character Owen Wilson plays in Darjeeling is my favorite of his since Dignan.

There's a sweetness to the character who, following a traumatic life-changing event, wants nothing better than to be friends with his brothers.

But yeah, that's Darjeeling. We're talking about Bottle Rocket here.

Dignan is such a sad character in that he's clearly something of a fool and everyone knows it, but there's also this inspiring resolve to be something. Fantastic.

I also love Inez and I love Luke Wilson's interactions with her and I love their relationship.

As you say, from a visual standpoint, it's hard to see Wes Anderson in there, but from a thematic and character standpoint, this couldn't have been anyone else's movie.

Many people would like to see him return to Bottle Rocket and even Rushmore. I guess they seem to think his movies have become buried in precious hipsterism and production design.

I agree it adds a certain emotional remove, but the feeling is there if you look for it.

As I've said before, The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite of all of them.

Hedwig said...

I do love the interactions between Anthony and Inez too...but not without a nagging feeling that (not unlike the relationship between Jack and the stewardess in Darjeeling), it IS a tad sexist. I mean, he falls for her without being able to communicate with her, and she's this abstract concept, in a way, this beautiful exotic woman. But yeah, that's just the little annoying voice in the back of my head trying to get attention, while the rest of me goes "awh..."

And yeah, Tenenbaums is my favorite, too. It just doesn't have any weak spots, does it?

Kaj said...

It's also the perfect marriage of his visual compositions, characters and themes. And it contains his best use of music (Ruby Tuesday in the scene in the tent is the first that I can think of). I really need to see Bottlerocket again though, saw it when I was a kid and don't remember much of it, except James Caan showing up and somebody asking if Owen Wilson was in the army.

cjKennedy said...

That scene in the tent you get two Rolling Stones songs for the price of one, first they play She Smiles Sweetly and it segues into Ruby Tuesday. Unfortunately they didn't get the rights to those songs to put on the soundtrack CD.

Royal: (Pointing at Henry) He's not your father.
Margot: (pause) Neither are you.

Ok, but back to Bottle Rocket. You're right about Inez and Anthony of course, but somehow it seems so harmless. It's a male fantasy (she's exotic and she cleans!), but it's a Wes Anderson male fantasy and somehow that seems ok.

Hedwig said...

I love the use of Nico's "These Days" , too, and the scene underscored by "Me And Julio Down in the Schoolyard" with Royal running through the streets with his grandsons, and the opening set to that wonderful version of "Hey Jude", and ... too much to mention really. It really is his best soundtrack, too, though I'll admit to a fondness for the Portugese Bowie covers in The Life Aquatic. And I thought the closing of Darjeeling was brilliant. Oh, and "Here comes my baby" and "Oh Yoko" and especially the Kinks' "Nothin' in the World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'bout that Girl" in Rushmore.

Together with Tarantino and maybe Sofia Coppola Anderson really makes the most eclectic and oddly resonant choices. When he uses a song, you can never hear it again without seeing the images that go with it.

Hedwig said...

Haha, guess we posted at the same time. I think you're right. I mean, I wouldn't mind figuring in Anderson's fantasies: somehow, I think I'd be much more interesting and exotic there than in real life.

cjKennedy said...

The thing I like about Anderson's soundtracks is that he never goes for the obvious choices. He picks a famous band, but goes for a B side or a lesser known album track.

"Nothing in the World..." is currently my favorite Kinks song...and that's saying something because I love The Kinks. Probably why I don't mind that Anderson goes to them every time.

The Rolling Stones' 2000 Man is nicely used in Bottle Rocket and of course Play With Fire is in Darjeeling (great soundtrack CD by the way).

The Portugese Bowie covers in Aquatic are fantastic!! One shouldn't overlook the scores by Mark Mothersbaugh either. Interesting interview with him in a recent LA Weekly: http://www.laweekly.com/music/music/are-you-not-devo-you-are-mutato/17826/