VOD of the week – “Bottle Rocket” by Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson having become almost an institution of American pop cinema, it is interesting to go back to the origins, to his first film, « Bottle Rocket », unreleased (in theaters) in France due to commercial failure in the United States. Understandable failure due to its indefinable whimsy and aloof humor. Obviously it’s a youth film, whose staging is still discreet and restrained. But it’s not so bad because Anderson, like many other filmmakers-designers (eg Tim Burton), currently tends to overload his films with special effects and intrusive sets. Here his work is neither kitsch nor exotic for a penny; it simply narrates the rantings of three post-adolescents who could have arisen from the whimsical mind of a J.-D. Salinger. They are apparently sons of good family – one of them quite wealthy – who decided to become robbers. They hatch a few muddy plans and execute them poorly, before going green like real gangsters after a big hit. But they are only immature kids, who don’t have the shadow of a method (nor of deep motivation), which leads them to disaster. They are led by Dignan, the excited leader of the band and probably the most naive, played by Owen Wilson, one of Anderson’s favorite future actors – and co-screenwriter of the film -, here assisted by his brothers, Luke and, in a hilarious small role, Andrew. As the police aspect and the action scenes are often cut short, Anderson counterbalances the main plot – Dignan’s criminal mythomania which leads the team to disaster – with a touching romance between Anthony and Inès, a Paraguayan maid (from motel where they are staying). Episode which does not lack delicacy, and softens the farce by not preventing the gags from abounding around the repeated blunders of the zero heroes. If the Anderson style is still embryonic, it is compensated by the freshness, almost the candor of the film, by its road-movie side, its refined natural settings, often desert, and its subtly absurd dialogues. Anderson, king of deadpans.
NB: “Bottle Rocket” — sometimes renamed in France “Tête brûlée” — is the long version of a short film of the same name by the director with the same actors.