Bottle Rocket

Director: Wes Anderson

Proof of the inaccuracy of test audience screenings, director Wes Anderson’s first film Bottle Rocket, co-written and starring his college classmate (a then unknown) Owen Wilson, received the worst test screenings point scores of any film in the history of Columbia Pictures at the time of its release, according to IMDB. Now a cult favorite, Bottle Rocket, a remake of Anderson’s short film of the same name developed a small loyal following that grew successively with the release of Anderson’s follow-up films Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Winner of the MTV Movie Award for Best New Filmmaker and numerous accolades for the debuts of Wes, Owen and co-star Luke Wilson, Anderson also received a double honor for both Rocket and his next film Rushmore from the LA Film Critics Association. Rocket, which benefits from a highly intelligent, offbeat and genuinely funny screenplay—complete with unexpected warmth and heart (that would become their trademark as evidenced in Tenenbaums) was produced by director James L. Brooks (Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets) and Polly Platt (producer of The Last Picture Show). Owen is terrific as aimless slacker Dignan, who, at the start of the film helps plan the “escape” for his friend Anthony’s release from a voluntary mental hospital in Arizona where Anthony had checked himself in for exhaustion, despite as his kid sister points out, the fact that he’s never actually worked a day in his life. Once back in Texas, Dignan, Anthony and their wealthy friend Bob (who joins the gang simply because he has a license and access to a car) concoct a plot to rob a local bookstore for no apparent reason other than boredom, although in the mind of Dignan, the robbery is the start of a grand plan to live a lucrative life of crime, working for his former landscaping company boss Mr. Henry (James Caan). Once on the lam, the three have differences in priority as Anthony finds love with a beautiful maid, Bob feels a sense of familial obligation when his brother Future Man (another Wilson brother) is apprehended, and Dignan tries to get everyone else interested in hiding their identities and moving on to an even bigger score. Innovative, hip and delightfully nerdy—one critic called Bottle Rocket “Reservoir Geeks,” which, while an admitted understatement, does make sense as the film relishes in its laid-back approach to crime, with characters who are earnest and na├»ve as opposed to Elmore Leonard rip-off cardboard cut-outs spouting pop culture, anger and exposition. Simply put they are three basic twenty-somethings trying to get on with their lives and it’s a delightful treat to watch. While Tenenbaums is their undisputed masterpiece, Bottle Rocket is still my favorite Anderson film for frequent viewings and helps set up the cinematic promise and mastery produced in the others. Note: The film also gained a fan in director Martin Scorsese who, when a guest critic on Ebert’s TV show selected the film as one of his personal favorites from the 1990’s.

Music from Bottle Rocket

“Alone Again Or” by Love
Love - The Best of Love - Alone Again Or

“7 and 7 Is” by Love
Love - The Best of Love - 7 and 7 Is

“2000 Man” by The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones - Their Satanic Majesties Request - 2000 Man