Bottle Rocket

Fine, I don’t hate Wes Anderson anymore. Or, not that I ever did. I was just skeptical about his immense popularity, that’s all. (See: Moonrise Kingdom.) And I promised many of my friends and colleagues, who happen to be on the Darjeeling Limited train to Anderson Town (see what I did there?), that I’d revisit some old stuffs. Starting with Bottle Rocket, and maybe The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore when I get a moment. Though I swear I’ve seen them both, and yet I remember nothing from either.

Bottle Rocket, though. I liked it! And here’s why. It contained acting, and very little diorama aesthetic. Which is to say, it was very un-Andersonian. Of course, it contained traces of what has become Wes Anderson’s signature storybook style, what with the muted palette and Wilson brothers and pretty landscapes. But this movie lacked the pretentiousness, the deliberate Artistic Nature, and the Loaded Symbolism that I can’t seem to see past in his later stuff. The shots aren’t perfect; in fact, they’re a bit frantic and rough, and sometimes they don’t work (i.e., the arrest scenes at the end). But it’s fine, because sometimes they do! Anderson was young. He didn’t care yet about making the actors look a certain way; he was just trying to make his first movie. And so the actors are not winking at the camera as much, because none of them are famous. In short, it’s a vehicle for Owen Wilson to show off just how brilliant and nuanced an actor he is. Even if you dislike the guy, you can’t deny his talent.

Oh yeah, and he also wrote this little ditty with Anderson. Respect. The blonde-haired brother is the centerpiece of this movie because he plays someone so type-A, so interrupting, so intense, so neurotic, that even though Luke Wilson is (and always will be) the still-waters-run-deep brunette, it’s impossible to take your eyes off Owen. He’s got this plan in motion, this pathetic “heist” that he wants to carry out, and watching him try is adorable, and sad, and worthy of a movie in all its mundane glory. And so it’s a movie.

It’s amazing to think that Luke and Owen were roughly 25 and 27 for this movie. They’ve aged and matured since, of course, but they still basically look the same. Owen, however, rocks an incredibly bro-tastic butch haircut that must be seen to be believed. I never thought I’d say this, but thank goodness he grew his hair out. And props to the late Robert Musgrave, who played their understated straight man (as if you could get straighter than Luke). I kept picturing Bill Hicks in his place for some reason. (That’s a compliment.)

I’m not sure why I was rooting for these guys, because they weren’t really likable, and they were doing something illegal, but I suppose that’s Wes Anderson’s greatest strength: turning the quirky, and maybe even annoying, into the lovable.

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