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Customer Review

3 March 2010
Martin Scorsese has called Wes Anderson's debut feature film "Bottle Rocket" one of his favorite films of the 1990s. At first I was surprised upon reading this, but looking at the film and hearing Scorsese talk about film in general, I can see why. On the surface, Anderson's and Scorsese's films have little, if anything, in common. But if you think about it, "Bottle Rocket" is a film about friendship between young men, not that different from Scorsese's "Mean Streets." Also, colour is always an active agent in Anderson's films, another aspect shared by Scorsese. And most of all, both filmmakers have a genius sense for soundtracks, i.e. what songs are most suited to the frame. I particularly admire the timing of the music, such as the use of The Proclaimers' song "Over and Done With" and The Rolling Stones' "2000 Man" and the way they fit in with their respective scenes.
"Bottle Rocket" is a story about two characters, Anthony and Dignan and their feeble life of crime. What makes the film special is the infectious optimism, a sentiment that is neither artificial nor forced as it usually is in independent American films. Neither is the comedy, which just flows quite naturally and never intrudes upon the characters' believability. Anthony (played laconically by Luke Wilson) has just been in a psychiatric hospital for "exhaustion." As his little sister points out, there seems to be little cause for exhaustion in Anthony's unemployed, laid-back lifestyle, but as the film progresses we understand that it is Dignan who is the cause. The development of the character story (which throbs underneath the veneer of heist-buddy-comedy film) comes over beautifully, the pacing is perfect and the end result is one of Wes Anderson's most touching films to date. It does not have a trace of cynicism in it, a rarity in today's world. When Anthony meets a girl and falls in love, his best friend is happy for him instead of being jealous. Although it inevitably gets in the way of their friendship, it does not make any lasting damage upon it. The film's very happy ending feels real and natural.
Criterion has of course given this film a proper sendoff - marvellously packaged with interesting special features, a fine booklet and a neat picture quality. Then again, I expected nothing less of Criterion than to show proper respect for one of the most original and exciting filmmakers in the US today.
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4.7 out of 5 stars