Film Review – ‘Bottle Rocket’ (1996) Criterion Blu-ray Release

Pretty much everyone will have seen the black and white photograph of Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson running out of the meeting in which Anderson’s directorial debut ‘Bottle Rocket’ was green lit by studio executives, both director and co-writer leaping towards the camera in a moment of joy. The film itself became a blueprint for many more Wes Anderson pictures to follow. 


The dysfunctional relationships between vastly different individuals within groups, the extreme close-ups of props, audiovisual sequences set up with fast-paced editing – all are familiar to Wes Anderson aficionados, yet you can see that they are present from the start. Here in ‘Bottle Rocket‘ you can see the “U. S. FIREWORKS OF AMERICA” stand in crystal clear definition. The digital transfer of the film was approved by Anderson and director of photography Robert Yeoman.

Dignan (Owen Wilson) has an overwhelming need to plan and carry out a series of small time robberies and sees varying degrees of success. He sits in his getaway car with best friend Anthony (Luke Wilson) and driver Bob (Robert Musgrave). The cast is a notably strong ensemble, early performances from the Wilsons see them go on to make more fantastic pictures. Musgrave is great as the short-tempered getaway driver. Elsewhere James Caan is eccentric, and well placed as someone who is respected in amongst Dignan’s chaotic world.


The costume here is really quite something. The height of mid-90’s accidental normcore is highlighted. The bright yellow jumpsuits are even discussed in the dialogue. Dignan goes all out on a mustard patterned shirt, Casio wristwatch, cream trousers combination (and that’s just one outfit).


The themes around rivalry and inadequacies surrounding the family/friend unit act are things that echo throughout Anderson’s work – right the way through to ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’ most recently. Conversely, there are less obvious music choices in ‘Bottle Rocket‘; The Proclaimers ‘Over and Done With’ and acoustic-led Stones song ‘2000 Man’ are a little less bombastic than the Alexandre Desplat Grand Budapest OST.


There are some insightful bonus features – the original short film of the same name, deleted scenes, ‘The Making of Bottle Rocket’ documentary, screen tests, et al. For sure, it would be great to watch all of Wes Anderson’s output (‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou‘ and ‘Moonrise Kingdom‘ being particular faves), yet I still find ‘Bottle Rocket‘ to be a natural place to begin.


Bottle Rocket is available as a Criterion Collection re-release on Blu-ray on 4th December

Crime, Comedy, | USA, 1996 | 15 | 4th December 2017 (UK Blu-ray) | Criterion Collection | Dir.Wes Anderson | Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson, Ned Dowd, | Buy: The Criterion Collection [Blu-ray]

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