Deep Focus: “Bottle Rocket”

Story posted March 1, 2021 in CommRadio, Arts & Entertainment by Jon Mead

There’s nothing more interesting than delving deep into the world of sleeper hits.

Sleeper hits are defined as films or television series that bombed at the box office initially and reached later success in future, whether it be through word of mouth or on second watch.

With great performances from now legendary and famous actors its mind boggling to people that some of these amazing performances were completely disregarded without a second thought!

Some of the most iconic and influential titles actually bombed at the box office, making movie-goers actually get up from their seats and leave the movie theater.

The unfortunate reason for this being that many great pieces of work just slipped through the cracks, received a weak/ average rating from critics or were just seen as grotesque and unappealing.

For example, Ridley Scott’s dystopian sci-fi masterpiece, “Bladerunner,” starring Harrison Ford did less than swell, as it was completely overshadowed by “E.T.” with both movies being released the same year in 1982.

Other amazing staple sleeper hits-that are now classics- consist of “Napoleon Dynamite,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” “The Thing,” “Children of Men” and “Starship Troopers.”

The reality is that some of the biggest and greatest directors in the world of cinema began their careers with a flop. One such director who is very known and revered today is Wes Anderson, who made his directorial debut with “Bottle Rocket.”

Crime comedy film “Bottle Rocket” was made in 1994 and began as a 13-minute short film, starring Owen and Luke Wilson, who met Anderson at the University of Texas. The film would later be transformed into a full-length feature film in 1996, but was a commercial failure.

This surreal and quirky comedy tells the story of friends Anthony (Luke Wilson) and Dignan (Owen Wilson). The opening scene shows Dignan breaking Anthony out of mental hospital- admitted due to “exhaustion.”

Right off the bat the dynamic between these two characters’ personalities is clear. Anthony is downcast and more connected with reality while Dignan is pretentious and his head filled with ideas of grandeur.

For most of this story it surrounds this duality and the duos relationship as Dignan comes up with schemes in order to commit petty theft just for the fun of it while Anthony and their other friend Bob (Robert Musgrave) tag along.

One aspect that viewers will find amusing is the atypical use of violence all throughout. Unlike most movies where violence is cool and filled with awesome sequences, its portrayed in this film as funny and goofy.

Apart from just being a charming and fun film, “Bottle Rocket” is also the precursor to the directors distinct and identifiable film style.

Audiences who have seen previous films by Anderson will immediately notice how this movie is shot more or less like any other, nothing like the long tracking shots and pan outs of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Moonrise Kingdom.”

But if fans look closely, they’ll see some of the trademark tropes that define the director’s films and that he would use later on.

Things such as the over formalization and politeness of dialogue interactions, is seen to this day in other works of his. This style is far more apparent and developed in the 1998 release of “Rushmore,” Anderson’s second film.

The audience will also see that unmistakable deadpan and comical delivery of serious lines that his writing is known for.

Although not his greatest project, “Bottle Rocket” is one heck of a ride and plays a huge part in Wes Anderson’s later development meeting praise from directors and audiences today.

Jon Mead is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email

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