One of my personal favourites and a greatly overlooked comedy by Wes Anderson, Bottle Rocket was released in 1996 and was co-written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson. Starring Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson and Robert Musgrave, the film was a box office flop, perhaps because it was so ahead of its time. One of the funniest, most beautifully shot and skilfully acted films of the 1990s, it is quite the surprise that it didn’t engage with audiences as much as one would have expected. In any case, it gets my vote, and it certainly gets Martin Scorsese’s vote, who considers it one of his top-ten favourite films.
The film tells the story of three friends whose only dream is to pull off an exciting robbery and to then be forced to go on the run. As they continuously fail, their great aspiration to become outlaw fugitives starts to feel like a distant dream. And prison has never felt so unreachable…
Bottle Rocket features a nostalgically colourful soundtrack of the same title. The main score for the film was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh, who gave the tracks names based on the scene they surround, and for this reason there is an original score titled Voluntary Hospital Escape, when Anthony “bribes the janitor” in order to leave the mental institution he has voluntarily entered, there is the musical piece Bookstore Robbery, during which Dignan, with a snoring patch on his nose, breaks into his neighbourhood’s local library, and there is also the track You’re Breaking His Heart, that plays in the background, supporting the already surreal conversation between Anthony and Mr. Henry during which Mr. Henry asks Anthony to join the team again so to not break Dignan’s heart. Other than these, the soundtrack includes Gun Buyers, Dignan’s Dance, And Also Because He Fired Me, Zorro Is Back, Cleaning Rooms With Inez, She Looks Just Like You, No Lifeguard On Duty, Rocky, Doesn’t Sound That Bad In Spanish, Snowflake Music/Mr. Henry’s Chop Shop, Goddammit I’m In, No Jazz, Highway Reprised, 75 Year Plan, and Futureman’s Theme.
7 & 7 Is, written by Arthur Lee and performed by Love, Zorro Is Back from the 1975 film Zorro, Prendeme la Vela by Abelardo Vasquez, Mambo Guajiro and Pachanga Diferente by Rene Touzet, Over and Done With by The Proclaimers also dress funny desert scenes, in which the three guys practice being fugitives.
However, the two tracks that really stand out more than any other piece of music in the film are Alone Again Or by Love and 2000 Man by The Rolling Stones. With Wes Anderson being a big fan of 60s psychedelic rock and with his movie soundtracks always including at least one track of early David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and The Kinks, it doesn’t come as a surprise that he dresses the two most significant scenes of Bottle Rocket with these two songs. And he does so, brilliantly.
Alone Again Or comes on right after Dignan and Anthony have stopped talking in the diner, and Dignan has made clear to his friend that he is happy for his friend having found a love interest, even if it is in the middle of a potentially very important operation. The second Anthony hears this, he runs out and back to the hotel to find Inez and make love to her, in a beautiful scene surrounded by zero dialogue, and only Alone Again Or, earthy colours and humorous passion. When I first watched the film, I re-winded this scene at least ten times. And so will you.
2000 Man accompanies the second to last scene, the most catalytic in a crazy, Wes Anderson way, during which the “big” operation happens, with Dignan’s team all dressed in yellow jumpsuits and the red Volkswagen van waiting for them outside with its keys locked inside. If it hadn’t been 2000 Man, then it would have had to be Citadel or any other Their Satanic Majesties Request track, as only that playlist would suit the colourful and highly psychedelic surrealism of the scene.