Bottle Rocket – A Quirky and Charming Heist Story – Film Review

Director: Wes Anderson

Writers: Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson

Starring: Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Robert Musgrave, Lumi Cavazos, and James Caan

Rating: ★★★½

Wes Anderson’s first film was an expansion of his short film, Bottle Rocket. The story was co-written between Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. Wilson also stars in the film alongside his brother, Luke Wilson. While the film was largely unnoticed at the time, although positively received by critics, it has since grown a cult following. It’s always interesting to see the first piece of work from such a unique artist, such as Anderson, you can see all of his usual techniques being fleshed out and worked on. While Bottle Rocket is a little rough around the edges, there is still a funny and wacky heist at its centre with three lovable characters as the leads.

Anthony (Luke Wilson) is nearing the end of his stay in a voluntary psychiatric unit. His close friend Dignan (Owen Wilson) doesn’t understand that he’s staying voluntarily, so plans to break Anthony out. Not wanting to let his friend down, Anthony goes along with the plan and on their way back home finds that Dignan has planned out the next fifty years of their lives. They are going to start a gang, complete heists and make a lot of money. They start small, robbing a book store and go on the run, before the plan starts to fall apart.

Luke Wilson is fantastic in the role of Anthony. He cares so much about his friend Dignan, and just wants to see him happy. He will go along with almost anything, from escaping the hospital, to joining his gang, just to make Dignan happy. It’s a really sweet friendship they have. Anthony has been in hospital as he’s struggling to find happiness in the world. He finds happiness in the simple things. There is a moment where he has a routine, running and working and he finds solace in that. He doesn’t need anything fancy, and finds the happiness in the small things.

Dignan on the other hand wants to be the next big criminal. He sees Abe Henry (James Caan) as his role model and wants to emulate him. He drags Anthony down a road that isn’t going to end well. The other main character is Bob (Robert Musgrave), Anthony’s friend. The three of them are the gang at the centre of the story. Their interactions are what make the film so interesting and enjoyable. Their dialogue is written really well and feels natural and there is so much stuff left unsaid. You feel like there is so much more beneath the surface with all three of them, and they genuinely feel like real people.

Typical of all of Anderson’s films is a wacky sense of humour. They rob a book store, having to fill up tiny bags with notes. Dignan and Bob go to a barbers and loudly discuss hiding their identities. The humour isn’t the funniest, there isn’t any truly laugh out loud moments, but it’s still charming and will keep a smile on your face. The music is also fantastic. The soundtrack is filled with classic and hidden gems, something that would become one of Anderson’s trademarks. The music reflects the film so well.

Bottle Rocket may not be the best film ever made, but it’s an facisnating insight into the mind of one of the greatest directors of recent years. The story still feels fresh a quarter of a century later. While fans may be let down, when comparing it to the high standards that Anderson has gone on to create, there is still a lot to love here and it’s more than worth checking out if you haven’t seen it before. It also has a more grounded tone, so those put of by Anderson’s more story-book films like The Grand Budapest Hotel may find something they like here.

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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