Bottle Rocket ★★★★

I'd been meaning to see Bottle Rocket for quite awhile anyway, so when friends proposed we watch a Wes Anderson movie, I was pleased when the voting went in its favor. The last Anderson work I'd seen was The Darjeeling Limited two years ago, which, if I didn't outright hate, I certainly didn't like much.

What struck me most overall was how Bottle Rocket feels like a "movie", rather than a "film". I'm not necessarily a big fan of the idea that those synonyms have different implications, but it's a handy shorthand so I use it anyway. I understood, and liked, these characters immediately. Their relationship dynamics felt organic and familiar, not just in the sense that they seemed familiar with one another (because, duh, they did all know each other), but rather they felt like reflections of some of my own friendships.

The relationship between Anthony (Luke Wilson) and Inez (Lumi Cavazos) is simultaneously the most interesting and disappointing. It's easy to root for Luke Wilson in general anyway, and easy to appreciate the charm of Lumi Cavazos, so it's almost obligatory to want to see them together - both in terms of forming a relationship and just sharing the screen.

The problem is that Inez is an underwritten, fetishized character who exists more as a trophy than as a person. My chief complaint with Rushmore when I revisited it last September was that Miss Cross (Olivia Williams) was the same kind of trophy, though I'll concede that there were more attempts to give her an actual personality and some character depth than went into Inez's development here.

And yet, on some level, the immature approach to writing Inez kind of suits the immaturity of Bottle Rocket overall. This whole thing is an irresponsible daydream gone awry. Halfway into the movie, I characterized it as a hybrid of Sideways and Reservoir Dogs. On my drive home, I realized that Bottle Rocket is also a somewhat restrained descendant of Jean-Luc Godard's À bout de souffle [Breathless].

I read pieces about the film penned by James L. Brooks and Martin Scorsese collected and presented on Criterion.com, hoping to find some perspective on the film I hadn't caught on this first viewing, but came up empty. I did appreciate a section that Brooks wrote, though, and while it's tangential to my own remarks here, I dig it enough that I want to share them with you:

The possession of a real voice is always a marvel, an almost religious thing. When you have one, it not only means you see things from a slightly different perspective than the billions of other ants on the hill, but that you also necessarily possess such equally rare qualities as integrity and humility. It’s part of the package of being a real voice, ’cause when your voice is real, you can’t screw around. The voice must be served; all other exit doors, marked “expediency” or “solid career move,” are sealed over, and the only way out of your inner torment is genuine self-expression.

How Bottle Rocket Entered My Flickchart

Bottle Rocket > Kris [Crisis] --> #823
Bottle Rocket > Superman: Doomsday --> #412
Bottle Rocket < Chocolat --> #412
Bottle Rocket < Starship Troopers --> #412
Bottle Rocket > Circus of Fear --> #359
Bottle Rocket < Matchstick Men --> #359
Bottle Rocket > Spaceballs --> #346
Bottle Rocket < The Invisible Man (1933) --> #346
Bottle Rocket > The Hunt for Red October --> #342
Bottle Rocket < Mrs. Henderson Presents --> #342

Bottle Rocket entered my Flickchart at #342/1646