Wes Anderson gives his first steps into the world of cinema with Bottle Rocket, a mild but charming comedy that revolves around three friends who aspire to become thieves even though they are clearly not cut out for the job. A quaint set of secondary characters is scattered throughout, complementing the main cast without overshadowing them and adding a touch of personality to the story as a whole.
Although Anderson is just getting his bearings and starting to define his vision, we can already identify some of the visual elements that he’s become so associated with. Note the use of wide angles that result in a panoramic view, as seen below:
He also incorporates repeated sequences, close ups on objects, overhead shots and silent montages with musical accompaniment, even dabbling into tracking shots, which he will continue to use with much more frequency. The short clip that follows will give you a taste of Anderson’s signature swift transitions and repetition:
The smart use of colour palettes is worth noting. Since the story progresses at a steady pace that never quite leads up to anything big, it seems appropriate that the colour scheme is comprised mostly of earthy tones and soft greens, evoking a neutrality that complements the mood. Not to mention, the scene composition is generous in its use of empty space, giving the impression that every object is there for a reason. The rooms shown are often sleek or chic without being cluttered, even bordering artsy when it comes to their decoration and design.
But let’s talk about the story. Bottle Rocket tests the relationships between friends and family alike, an issue that will be revisited and frequently present in many of Anderson’s films. Anthony (Luke Wilson) and Dignan (Owen Wilson), although good friends, go through a fair share of rough patches due to the clashing nature of their personalities, but they have something in common that keeps them moving forward and coming back to each other: the wish to achieve self-fulfilment. Their constant failures only serve as motivation to keep trying harder. For Anthony, it isn’t only a matter of self-satisfaction, but the implied wish to prove himself to his family. Or, at the very least, to not feel like he’s a disappointment to them.
The seriousness of the topic matter is evened out with the offbeat humour that prevails throughout the film, a tactic often employed by Anderson, whether it be due to the awkward exchanges between characters, eccentric behaviour or amusing mishaps when you least except them. By the end of it, all sub-plots are wrapped up neatly in a manner that is neither dismissive nor rushed, which seems appropriate due to the easygoing nature of the story overall. This makes Bottle Rocket a pretty little gem of a film, not Anderson’s best, but something you might want to watch in times of leisure.