Did that just happen?
It’s always an interesting experience to watch the first film of a filmmaker with a distinct style like Wes Anderson’s. Usually directors don’t quite get it right the first time out which is quite understandable considering the complexities of filmmaking, so it takes a movie or even two to catch the stride.
But then after watching “Bottle Rocket” I couldn’t help but notice how perfectly well it fits with the rest of Wes Anderson’s work. All the trademarks of a Wes Anderson film are there; the breezy, whimsical tone, the screwball characters and humor, the dysfunctional family and innocent romance. And although it lacks some eccentricities that can be found in his later films, this still feels like a movie that only he could make.
This is further supported by the casting of the two main characters, Anthony and Dignan, who are played by Luke and Owen Willson, two regular collaborators of Anderson’s. And then there’s also the characteristically saturated and unintrusive cinematography by Robert Yeoman, who has shot every Wes Anderson film since, and the clean but colorful production design. All of this contributes to this notion that with “Bottle Rocket” as his debut Wes Anderson feels very much like a complete filmmaker from his first film.
The story follows Anthony who is released from a mental hospital. After he robs a book store with his friend Dignan, they hide off at a motel where Anthony falls for a housemaid. This, in regular Anderson fashion, causes a rift between the two friends and after a period of estrangement Dignan returns with a new robbery in mind.
It sounds very much like by the numbers Wes Anderson but then again is there really such a thing? Each of his movies he fills with uniquely indisposed and charming characters, and although they do share many similarities they’re also quite unique constructs in their own right. Or are they?
I personally never considered him a truly great filmmaker because of these overbearing similarities. Not that he has to be a great filmmaker mind you, but I do feel like there’s a lot of room to grow. And no, doing it with stop motion (“Fantastic Mr. Fox”; which I consider maybe even his best film yet) doesn’t make it different.
The more I keep thinking about this the more it feels like he’s basically making the same film over and over again, but just in a new zany environment with a different but familiar cast of characters. Almost in the same sense of how Tim Burton is basically making the same film over and over. God that feels like such a dirty comparison. And that never really came through for me until I saw this film. So in a lot of ways “Bottle Rocket” could be considered as the defining Wes Anderson film. And I might have just spoiled Wes Anderson pictures for myself.
But I do enjoy his films immensely however, and his elegant and uniquely lightweight style of both directing and writing I always found refreshing, which only makes this repetition even more frustrating. Maybe he does make that next step with “Moonrise Kingdom”, which I am yet to see. So I guess I'll get back to this one eventually...
Luke Wilson - Anthony
Owen Wilson - Dignan
Robert Musgrave - Bob
Lumi Cavazos - Inez
James Caan - Mr. Henry
Bottle Rocker on IMDb