starsky-score-8

Bottle Rocket (1996)

by Not Friends Cinema Club

Dear Inez,โฃ
โฃ
In 1996 Roger Ebert stated that the charm of Wes Andersonโ€™s debut ๐˜‰๐˜ฐ๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜™๐˜ฐ๐˜ค๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต (๐Ÿท๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿผ) was in its flaws: โ€œ๐˜๐˜ต ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฅ๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฆ๐˜ณ, ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ช๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ด๐˜ต๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ด ๐˜ฅ๐˜ช๐˜ข๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜จ๐˜ถ๐˜ฆโ€ฆ[๐˜ฃ๐˜ถ๐˜ต] ๐˜ช๐˜ตโ€™๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ธ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜ฅ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜จ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต.โ€ I feel this is a commonality in Anderson films, where the quirks need to be slowly unveiled to save from utter lunacy, and at times he thrusts them upon us with such gusto that the quirks all blend into a long, silly, pencil thin charade. But ๐˜‰๐˜ฐ๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜™๐˜ฐ๐˜ค๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต isnโ€™t so superficial, nor is it lacking style. Itโ€™s just Anderson unrefined, youthfully inspired, naturally stylistic but not yet weighed down by it.โฃ

The film opens as Anthony (Luke Wilson) begins preparing to escape from the mental hospital heโ€™s checked into. A sheet is tied to the bedframe and drooping out the window. Dignan (Owen Wilson) hides in the underbrush, frantically shuffling as he watches the window through his binoculars. A doctor enters the room. The jig is up! That is until we realise itโ€™s a voluntary hospital and you may come and go as you please. Anthony thanks the doctor and climbs out anyway.โฃ

The childish elan of Dignan and complacency of Anthony is more or less the entire plot. Theyโ€™re not criminals, theyโ€™re just two kids playing in a sandpit. The career of crime is more a backdrop to their desire for a lifetime of inertia, of life without consequence, of impulsivity. We can probably boil it all down to boredom. Itโ€™s something to do. Hell, even the docile staff of a local bookstore they rob couldnโ€™t care less. โ€œ๐˜ž๐˜ฉ๐˜บ ๐˜ฅ๐˜ฐ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ข๐˜ณ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ฑ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฏ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ๐˜ณ ๐˜ฏ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฆ?โ€ the clerk asks twice with generous curiosity.โฃ

Their genuine enthusiasm for killing time works well with their facetious approach to life. Dignan has colourfully filled out a journal planning their next 75-years as fugitives; Anthony tells an interested girl heโ€™s โ€œ๐˜ฃ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ด๐˜ฑ๐˜ช๐˜ต๐˜ข๐˜ญโ€ because he โ€œ๐˜ธ๐˜ฆ๐˜ฏ๐˜ต ๐˜ฏ๐˜ถ๐˜ต๐˜ด.โ€ Like children playing doctor in the upstairs rumpus room, theyโ€™re enthusiastic toward idealised responsibility but canโ€™t quite calculate what that responsibility means. โ€œ๐˜โ€™๐˜ฎ ๐˜ข๐˜ฏ ๐˜ข๐˜ฅ๐˜ถ๐˜ญ๐˜ต,โ€ Anthony asserts to his younger sister, โ€œโ€ฆ๐˜ธ๐˜ฉ๐˜บ ๐˜ข๐˜ณ๐˜ฆ ๐˜บ๐˜ฐ๐˜ถ ๐˜ญ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฌ๐˜ช๐˜ฏ๐˜จ ๐˜ข๐˜ต ๐˜ฎ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ญ๐˜ช๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ข๐˜ต?โ€ Andersonโ€™s notoriety for creating loveable man-babies may be a tad overcooked these days, but just like us, everything was young at some point.โฃ

In contrast to his future filmsโ€”which attract as many fans as they do criticsโ€”Andersonโ€™s stylistic design is restrained in his debut. I have an image in my head of him nervously scraping the dirt below with his foot when asked โ€œ๐˜๐˜ด ๐˜ต๐˜ฉ๐˜ช๐˜ด ๐˜ด๐˜ฉ๐˜ฐ๐˜ต ๐˜ฐ๐˜ฌ๐˜ข๐˜บ?โ€ making sure not to upset anyone by asking for โ€œ๐˜”๐˜–๐˜™๐˜Œ ๐˜—๐˜ˆ๐˜š๐˜›๐˜Œ๐˜“! ๐˜ ๐˜•๐˜Œ๐˜Œ๐˜‹ ๐˜‰๐˜๐˜“๐˜“ ๐˜”๐˜œ๐˜™๐˜™๐˜ˆ๐˜ !โ€ but maybe Iโ€™m bloviating. The reservedness of Bottle Rocketโ€™s design does well to emphasise the acting and the script, rather than creating a character out of everything in a congested, curated frame. I find this subtly to be the film’s best quality, where dialogue is bizarre but meandering, the world around them obscure but never over-the-top. It frolics in obscurity rather than lay and be drenched in it.โฃ

Like Iโ€™ve said in previous reviews, the divisiveness of Andersonโ€™s filmsโ€”however unintentional or notโ€”is aggressively apparent, and unsurprisingly so. Personality begets admiration; personality begets truculence. The schism is endemic, especially for Anderson who can be so superfluous, and only more so whilst we wait for The French Dispatch to release later this year. But whether youโ€™re a fan of the deadpan auteur in his pastel suits, or absolutely cannot stand him, ๐˜‰๐˜ฐ๐˜ต๐˜ต๐˜ญ๐˜ฆ ๐˜™๐˜ฐ๐˜ค๐˜ฌ๐˜ฆ๐˜ต (๐Ÿท๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿฟ๐Ÿผ) has as much and as little Wes Anderson to suit all needs.โฃ
โฃ
Warm regards,โฃ
โฃ
M. โฃ