At this point of the bleak midwinter, you’ve made your way through the entire Netflix catalogue (there’s only so many ‘Witty Films with a Strong Female Lead Based on a Book’ you can handle) and are looking for a different, more varied streaming experience. With that in mind, let me guide you through some lesser known movie streaming sites, taking you through what you can watch in your free 30 day trial membership and beyond. We start with Mubi, the curated art and classic film site.
As fits our debut ’30 Days of…’ feature, Mubi launched its ‘Brilliant Debuts’ feature today with Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Your experience of today (January 1st, the ultimate morning after the night before) is the perfect metaphor for this film. You are not feeling yourself. Parts of yourself are there, but they have not yet cohered into a whole.
So it is with Bottle Rocket. Some classic Anderson tropes see their beginnings here, but they have not come together yet. The story of one friend (Luke Wilson) just out of a mental hospital who gets caught up in his friend Dignan’s (Owen Wilson) 75-year plan to become a criminal, it features close-ups of books, a Zissou-like team of jumpsuit-clad criminals and a soundtrack of semi-obscure ’60s cuts. The two leads at a push could even be distant Tenenbaums gone rogue.
Anderson would take these elements and spin them into his own unique film world, but here he is still heavily influenced by what was happening around him. Although a completely different film from Reservoir Dogs, it very much carries that mid-90s burden that every debut film by a young American male had to be a dialogue-heavy robbery movie. This genre is an uncomfortable one for Anderson, who clearly prefers everything in this movie other than the final robbery which comes across like an afterthought, with the great music choice (2000 Man from The Rolling Stones’ maligned Their Satanic Majesties Request) far out-shadowing anything in the scene.
Perhaps these failings, however, are by necessity rather than design. The film has a small budget of $7 million (around a third of the budget of his next film Rushmore), and so that signature world-building just is not possible. Plus, with Anderson a fairly untried commodity, a low-stakes crime picture was a good bet to secure funding two short years after Pulp Fiction.
This aside, however, the film represents an interesting path not taken for Anderson. The dialogue is funny in a very different way than anything since, with Owen Wilson giving a slightly amped-up performance at odds with his set relaxed mood in most films since that totally sells the script.
In fact, Bottle Rocket represents a bottled version of Wes Anderson as he was in 1996. The characters feel like stand-ins for the young frustrated creatives behind the camera, ready for their big shot at making movies just as much as Dignan is waiting for his chance to become an infamous criminal. Following this reasoning, his later work can be seen as that creative given free reign to create worlds. All of that would explode outwards from Bottle Rocket, a promising debut for Anderson and for my Mubi free trial.