Dir: Wes Anderson (Rushmore; The Royal Tenenbaum's; The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou)
The first film from Anderson and writing partner Owen Wilson, a cute character study that shows flashes of the brilliance of Rushmore and Tenenbaum's. A story of a group of misfits yearning for glory as criminals, Bottle Rocket is above all compassionate to its characters despite their flaws, an ethos that allows us to both laugh at and sympathize with them.
Obviously, the whole movie lies with Owen Wilson. I know a guy just like Dignan (no one reading this, don't worry), so awkward and simultaneously well intentioned that you can't help but like him even as you cringe at his mannerisms. The loveable loser thing is here taken to real heights by the spot-on performance. I found the rest of the movie to be less intersesting, with too much time devoted to Luke Wilson's whirlwind romance with the motel maid. I get the point, but the strength of the script lies in the other half of the plot, and found myself marking time until the Owen returned to the fore.
This movie showcased for me why I didn't really like Napoleon Dynamite. They both share an attention to the quirks of outcasts and their attempts to fit in. But in ND, we were held at a distance from the main characters as they were humilitated or acted rudely (I think Ebert made this point?). Bottle Rocket begins themes explored more fully in Anderson's later movies, where the outcasts are really the sweet ones, people with a lot to offer and their own stories to tell. ND is caricature (sometime funny), Bottle Rocket is character, less funny but much more rewarding.
This film is clearly inferior to Anderson's next two, but wathcing Owen Wilson was enjoyable and seeing the early development of this unique appraoch to filmmaking was worthwhile. Recommended, but really for Anderson fans only.