Bottle Rocket (1996)

“Everybody wants to know what’s next. May I enjoy this moment?” Wes Anderson’s directorial debut, as well as the acting debut of Owen and Luke Wilson, features some of the most inept criminals in film history. Honestly, these guys are total wannabes, to even call them criminals would be an insult to the profession. In fact, the tagline reads, “They’re not really criminals, but everybody’s got to have a dream.” The misguided and delusional small-time thief “Dignan” (Owen Wilson) sketches out a “75-year plan” for criminal endeavors and then “breaks” his buddy “Anthony” (Luke Wilson) out of a Texas mental institution (not realizing he is in there voluntarily!). The third member of the crew, “Bob” (Robert Musgrave) gets chosen as the getaway driver because he’s the only one with a car. After they clumsily knock off a deserted bookstore in a strip mall in the middle of nowhere, the trio decides to “hole up” in a cheap motel off the highway. While hanging out at the motel (Bob has left with the car so they’re basically stuck there), Anthony embarks on a relationship with housekeeper “Inez” (Lumi Cavazos), who speaks little English. After they eventually decide to leave the motel, their stolen car breaks down, and Dignan and Anthony fight (Anthony has given most of the stolen loot to Inez) and go their separate ways. Eventually the crew regroups and hooks up with crime boss “Mr. Henry” (James Caan), actually the owner of a lawn service called “The Lawn Wranglers” and part-time criminal. The final caper at the factory proves to be a total clusterfuck and had me laughing my ass off! This low-key, offbeat and frequently hilarious comedy totally bombed at the box office but has developed a cult following over the years. You know what? I enjoyed ALL the characters (even Bob’s asshole brother “Future Man,” portrayed by Andrew Wilson, was funny). The soundtrack is pretty cool too and features some eclectic selections like “7 and 7 Is” by Love. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo fame scored the film. Highly recommended!

Useless Trivia: Martin Scorsese chose Bottle Rocket as one of his top 10 favorite movies of the 1990s. In the March 2000 issue of Esquire, Scorsese remarked, “A couple of years ago, I watched a film called Bottle Rocket. I knew nothing about it, and the movie really took me by surprise. Here was a picture without a trace of cynicism, that obviously grew out of its director’s affection for his characters in particular and for people in general. A rarity. And the central idea of the film is so delicate, so human: A group of young guys think that their lives have to be filled with risk and danger in order to be real. They don’t know that it’s okay simply to be who they are.”

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