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Bottle Rocket (1996) and announcing Anti-Film School’s Wes Anderson Wednesdays!

Hey readers,

Anti-Film School is proud to announce that throughout February, every Wednesday will be Wes Anderson Wednesday, where Corinne posts a new review of one of his films. This may spill over into March but will that really bother you? IT’S WES ANDERSON! So enjoy all the quirkiness!


by Corinne Rizzo

While the idea of two friends reuniting to embark on an escapade of robberies isn’t the most original concept for a film, Wes Anderson finds a way for those pieces to function. In his first wide release, Bottle Rocket, Anderson’s ability to pull functioning bits of an already existing reality and twist them to create an alternate, though awkwardly appealing reality, creates a solid foundation for his subsequent releases and promotes a ring of characters that an audience will grow with beyond the film.

The film opens with Luke Wilson’s character, Anthony, breaking out of what looks like a minimalistic hotel setting, while signaling to Dignan, played by Owen Wilson, out on the lawn who is equipped with binoculars and a signaling mirror. The audience learns quickly in this scene that Anthony is not in a motel, but in a clinical setting centered around what he calls “mental exhaustion, ” despite never working a day in his life. This very first scene also clues the audience in to Anthony’s character beyond his sensitivity to mental stimulation, but also to his fear of letting people down. Here we see Dignan outside looking like he is on some covert mission while Anthony explains to his doctor that his friend didn’t know that Anthony’s visit was voluntary, creating an elaborate plan to break him out of the nut house.

Meanwhile, Dignan is an over-stimulated and under-mature counterpart to the introspective and quiet Anthony. Upon breaking Anthony out of the clinic, Dignan exposes him to what he calls his “Seventy Five Year Plan,”on a bus trip that will initiate a sequence of robberies, starting with Anthony’s parent’s house for start up cash.

The second robbery is small time as well and genuinely excites Dignan when the manager of a bookstore they are holding up actually has money to hand over. The robbery is time consuming and awkward and while Dignan made the plans, he is excitable and sloppy. Anthony at this point becomes the collected and focused half of the duo.

When they hit the road with their neighbor, Bob (the only character in this equation with a vehicle), they stop at a nameless motel. While Dignan and Bob are at eachother’s throats about how to get away with their crimes, Anthony spots Ines, one of the motel staff members, falling very quickly but very passionately (and awkwardly) in love with her.

Cars are stolen, lips are busted and irrational behavior ensues. Camaraderie is the lesson.

Though they couldn’t appear any different or display more diverse personality traits, the chemistry between Owen and Luke Wilson in the film seems to be responsible for more than just the success of Bottle Rocket, but for the success of Wes Anderson’s career. It’s possible that Anderson recognized how two brothers could love and hate each other so much and utilized that chemistry to successfully portray these two characters.

Based on the performance given by the Wilsons, it is easy to understand why Anderson would choose these two for future films.  The actors chosen for the roles that Anderson creates are just as important to the film as the characters themselves and seems key in deciphering Anderson’s style.

In Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson creates a core of true characters in a film where plot might not be enough. While the film has its cynical and surprising turns, Bottle Rocket is a true display of excellence in character building. Each character is so carefully crafted and placed, no character seems irrelevant and if someone appears in the film, you can bet that Anderson will find a way for them to function somehow, in the grand scheme of things.

Grade B+

Top Five Reasons To Watch Bottle Rocket:

1)  Luke Wilson’s 90’s hair.

2)  Its like a test drive for the awkwardness you might experience in later Anderson films.

3)  Kumar Pallana…pretty much.

4)  We get to meet the third Wilson (Andrew Wilson plays Future Man).

5)  Bro-love before it was cool.