This film is what Napoleon Dynamite must dream about as he polishes his glasses and irons his T shirt for the next day. Imagine being quirky, hip, exciting and fresh at one point, then a decade later still being all of those things – instead of the punchline to a million jokes and nothing more than fodder for the lamest and most dated of office jokers.
Imagine that – Gosh.
Bottle Rocket follows two friends (real life brothers) Dignan and Anthony through perhaps a few months of their life.
Dignan is an over-zealous and underequipped wannabe master thief.
Anthony is open, honest and a little innocent (without being naïve), he just wants to please everyone and not cause any trouble.
These two characters can co-exist, but Anthony’s simple goals cannot be met when Dignan is around, as Dignan’s desire to commit pointless crimes takes advantage of Anthony’s need to please, meaning he is constantly doing things he doesn’t want to do.
As we learn early Dignan is patterning his next carefully planned 75 years around teaming up with a gang of master-thieves lead by Mr Henry, who Dignan had the good fortune to work with for a short time while Anthony was in a voluntary mental health clinic. Along with Bob, a guy who just wants to be involved Dignan and Anthony pull an early heist, using unnecessary tactics and pointless and ineffective methods. Thankfully for them their small time crime is somewhat below the radar, though they still go on the lam and hide out until the “coast is clear”, and really this is where the movie gains steam.
While on the run, at least in their minds the team stay in a cheap motel. Bob and Anthony are basically relaxing and Dignan is plotting the next big move, acting like they just successfully pulled a heist on the Louvre instead of taking a couple hundred bucks from a closed bookstore.
Anthony meets a young oddly-pretty maid named Inez, who doesn’t speak English. They hit it off, or at least Anthony thinks so, there is quite a communication issue that Anthony seems content to ignore.
When Bob has some home issues and scarpers in the middle of the night, taking his car and leaving the other two stranded Dignan is furious at the perceived betrayal. When reasoning fails Dignan and Anthony have a falling out and go separate ways.
Of course the gang meets back up, meets Mr Henry at last and has more adventures, or at least one more.
But this is not a heist flick, or a crime flick, and definitely not a drama or thriller – in fact it is really not about much of anything. Like the best and worst of director Wes Anderson Bottle Rocket seems to indulge in just watching the characters as they deal with situations that range from extremely mundane to mildly involving. There are no big explosions in these films, no especially witty dialogue, no Tarantino-esque long stories and speeches and no big getaways or 43 killed in a hail of bullets action sequences.
You either smile and chuckle as you watch the film and let yourself get involved in the story or you will be bored as hell, there isn’t too much middle ground.
Now sometimes this works and others it does not, looking at Mr Anderson’s career:
Bottle Rocket Works.
The Royal Tenenbaums Doesn’t work.
The Life Aquatic… Doesn’t work.
The Darjeeling Limited Works.
Fantastic Mr Fox Works.
To sum up Wes Anderson’s work with one quote I always think of this brief exchange between Anthony and a random girl in Bottle Rocket:
Girl – “You’re complicated aren’t you?”
Anthony – “I try not to be.”
By not complicating matters and allowing the story to just “be” Wes Anderson may never get huge box-office business, but when it “works” as my above table shows, his films are effortlessly charming and worthwhile – and we all know tables don’t lie.
Final Rating – 8 / 10. Wes Anderson may never make a truly great movie, but if he made more like Bottle Rocket that isn’t a bad outcome at all.