Bottle Rocket – A Subtle Start

With so much buzz around Wes Anderson and his latest movie, Moonrise Kingdom, I figured it was time to take a look back at what exactly makes Anderson’s films so appealing. Personally, Anderson is without a doubt one of my favorite modern directors, like the rest of his dedicated fan-base, I’ve always been drawn to his unmistakable style. Anderson’s films place so much importance on aesthetic, the look of everything has to be exactly right and never is this more true than with the characters. Anderson himself is a remarkable dresser, known for wearing corduroy suits, cropped pants, and Clarks Wallabees, all items that seem to reflect who he is as a person and artist. This idea of your clothes reflecting who you are as a person can be seen in all of Anderson’s films, but to see how it all began let’s go back to Anderson’s first film – Bottle Rocket. Released in 1996, Bottle Rocket was written by Anderson and Owen Wilson, who were roommates at the University of Texas. Filmed entirely in Texas, Bottle Rocket is a subtle first step into Anderson’s world.

As the least overall stylish and stylized of all of Wes Anderson films, Bottle Rocket is a relatively mellow film. The elements that would come to define Anderson’s latter works (cut scenes, stark colors, more formal costumes, etc.) are largely absent from Bottle Rocket, instead the film has a more realistic feel, appearing as probably the only Wes Anderson movie to exist outside of the “Wes Anderson universe.” But don’t let this fool you into believing the film has any less personality than Anderson’s other films. The sheer absurdity of the situation and the main characters, particularly Dignan (played by Owen Wilson) drive the film, working as a precursor to all the films that followed. It’s as if in Bottle Rocket, Anderson understood what emotions and stories he wanted to convey through his films, but didn’t he exactly know the right way to go about it yet. While Bottle Rocket is less blatantly stylised, the look of the film is nonetheless noteworthy. The style of Bottle Rocket, lies somewhere in the middle, straddling between the grounded feel of most films and the extremely specific aesthetic that Anderson came to realize in his subsequent films.

Against the placid Texas landscape, Dignan, his brother Anthony (played by Luke Wilson), and their partner Bob (played by Robert Musgrave) seem out of place, running around erratically, attempting to execute a heist that would only seem logical to them. The look of the three character’s solidifies this sense of disconnect with their surroundings, wearing boldly printed shirts, oddly paired clothes, and borderline tacky colors, they appear to be removed from the rest of the characters within the film. This sense of separation, of having characters that are presented to be entirely different than anyone in the film or in the real world, is something that Anderson continues in the rest of his films. Through the way his character’s look and dress they are their own unique entities, not exactly opposing the world around them, but blissfully acting in their own world without acknowledgement of the norms and limitations of that world.

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