Bottle Rocket (1996)

Every criminal needs a detailed plan.

Every criminal needs a detailed plan.

When I was a teenager, I scoured the cable guide every month and highlighted every movie I wanted to see. I made a list of all the times the movies I wanted to tape played and programmed the VCR so I could have them around, because I didn’t have time to watch all the ones I wanted to right away. This is how I first saw Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket; I’m pretty sure I caught it during a late-night showing on IFC (basic cable channels used to play movies back then).

Watching it was one of those epiphanies; 91-minutes of holy-crap-I-didn’t-know-movies-could-be-like-this-and-where-can-I-get-more? Now that Wes Anderson is pretty ubiquitous, the style of Bottle Rocket should come as no surprise: deadpan, a little strange with wacked-out characters suffering from quirky family drama and childlike outlooks on life. But watching it after years of other Wes Anderson movies, and knowing exactly what to expect, doesn’t diminish its overall affect one bit.

Anthony falls in love.

Anthony falls in love.

Anthony (Luke Wilson) has checked himself into a mental hospital to help him recover from “exhaustion.” His friend Dignan (Owen Wilson) has vowed to help him escape with an elaborate plan involving tied-together sheets, mirrors, and hoots. Anthony doesn’t want to tell Dignan that he can leave at will because he’s so excited to put his plan into action. That gives us our first glimpse into their weird friendship.

Once Anthony escapes, Dignan shares his meticulous life-plan with him, which involves many different and elaborately planned robberies, all revolving around the elusive Mr. Henry (James Caan). Anthony goes along with Dignan’s hare-brained plans, and Dignan brings in a third: Bob, their driver, because, well, Bob has a car. The three

It's hard being Dignan.

It’s hard being Dignan.

get into trouble (kind of?) and hit the road, on the run, where Anthony falls in love…

Sure, the plot is ridiculous and unlikely, but that doesn’t matter. The whole world Anderson presents to us seems pretty unlikely, anyway: neatly hand-written signs, green fields, (very) friendly maids, pristine landscaping uniforms. I think that’s what I like so much about this movie; it’s a sweet, weird, upbeat fantasy set in a weird fantasy world, populated by perplexing people that make me chuckle, if not laugh out loud. I honestly can’t imagine why someone wouldn’t enjoy this movie. It’s so good!


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