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.
Before he made the brilliantly funny "The Royal Tenebaums" - Wes Anderson made a big splash with "Bottle Rocket". But as you've probably gathered most of the reviews are for the 'DVD' version.
At present this now overlooked gem is only available on BLU RAY in the States. But therein lies a problem for UK buyers...
The US issue is REGION-A LOCKED - so it WILL NOT PLAY on most UK Blu Ray players unless they're chipped to play 'all' regions (which the vast majority aren't). Don't confuse BLU RAY players that have multi-region capability on the 'DVD' front - that won't help.
Until such time as "Bottle Rocket" is given a Region B release by someone - check your player has the capacity to play REGION A - before you buy the Criterion issue...
A rambling, oddball shaggy dog story, but it packs some real emotion and laughs along the way. Terrific understated performances, and good use of images and music. I recently watched it a 2nd time and found I wasn't all that into it... until near the end, when it suddenly got me on a deeper level emotionally than on first viewing. There's something in it about the loss of childhood dreams that resonates beyond the silly and playful surface. Always a good sign when a film deepens with time and re-visiting.
If you can play region 1 DVDs and care about the film, Criterion's extras are definitely a worthwhile investment, most especially (for me) the 13 minute short the feature grew out of.