A person’s debut film does not always expose the pure visionaries of an artist, but it displays enough for the audience to see that there is potential. Take a look at Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs; it clearly is a film that is still unrefined in its style, but it displays enough unconventional dialogue and extended takes, that it feels different from the other similar-plotted films. I chose to use Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs as an example because so much of Bottle Rocket conveys a resemblance to the film, but to say that this is a rip off or even a homage to it is ridiculous.
Bottle Rocket is Wes Anderson in his most confined. It features a plot that does not push the boundaries of his audience’s imagination, which he demonstrates later on with Steve Zissou and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The world he creates is neither manipulated nor exaggerated; instead he pushes people that live within it. It certainly felt jarring at first, because the films that I was drawn into the most from him were the ones that pushed both the characters and the environment they live in, creating a surreal and escaping experience.
Quirkiness and offbeat humour is certainly present in Bottle Rocket’s central characters, contributing for one the factors that made the film enjoyable. Anderson creates conversations that are grounded and familiar but since he keeps the tone of the film light, it never delivers that crime edge that his characters would say given their profession and the position they put themselves in. As this was Anderson’s first film, the lack of confidence in himself holds his characters back from being the exaggerated figures that they are supposed to portray, therefore it affected the film’s ability to create comedy in a couple of instances. This loss of balance left me taking the film’s characters with seriousness, hence seeing these characters as those familiar individuals that we find in contemporary dramatic-comedies. Also in regards to its storytelling ability, it was paced too swiftly in its first act, leaving me feeling disorientated with the character’s intended goals; it was like as if Anderson has cut a few frames from its initial scenes to shorten its running time.
Bottle Rocket however does provide depth, regardless of Anderson’s characters odd personalities. The film throughout lingers on the idea of the success and fame of crime, ergo the saying “crime pays” being repeated and argued in a couple scenes. The film certainly makes fun of its characters, showing the lack of sophistication of their heists but to them it was a step forward towards the right direction, at least so they thought. The film does certainly dwell on paternal-like issues, with Dignan obsessed with proving himself, particularly to Mr. Henry, to show that he is worthy of being in his team. There was something about it that felt like I was watching a satire of Scorsese’s Goodfellas. Anthony, the film’s sympathetic and grounded protagonist, is much different to Dignan and acts more on pushing the film’s ideas of redemption; a man who feels like he is at his lowest, lacking in any sort of direction in life, suddenly finds love with a woman in the most unexpected places and through that he finds peace and happiness, slowly bandaging the emotional breakdown of his past.
The cast of Bottle Rocket does a decent job in portraying their roles, but I felt the chemistry between the two central characters needed a little more work. I felt there should have been a bit more intensity between the two actors during moments of elevated tension to sell their spoken dialogue. However when the film’s comedic elements do land, they hit due to the actor’s ability to bring that offbeat timing and many are successful due to the choice of words spoken or the reactions that come out of it.
Bottle Rocket felt like more of a demonstration to his audiences that he is a filmmaker worth investing; coming off more as the pitch rather than the finished product. It lacks the polish of his recent works but it brings enough positive qualities to prevent me from completely dismissing it.