The arrival of Wes Anderson's latest film “Moonrise Kingdom” is a prime opportunity for dinner and a movie.
Anderson is a unique American auteur, deriving films from a universe born in his expansive and well-defined imagination. Where director Tim Burton teased us in the late 1980s with a visual style hinting at something new, he never delivered a fully realized world. Anderson popped on the scene in 1996 with “Bottle Rocket,” adapted from a short film and introducing viewers to a world where truth is replaced by irony, fantasy worlds are the dreams people follow and the American dream as sold on television should've come with a warranty.
Anderson followed this promising picture with “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenebaums,” which filled in Anderson's mosaic with greater vibrancy. “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” and “The Darjeeling Express” filled in smaller corners of the world. But the stop-motion masterpiece “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” gave us a whole new view of Anderson's world.
I watch “Bottle Rocket” at least once every year or two. Others in Anderson's arsenal are superior pictures, but “Bottle Rocket” is the first glimpse into this world that's always been compelling whether the narrative entries into it stand up or not.
It stars Owen Wilson, who was Anderson's college roommate and co-writer, plus his brother, Luke Wilson, as Anthony, Robert Musgrave as Bob, James Caan as Mr. Henry — plus an appearance by the oldest Wilson brother, Andrew, as Futureman.
“Bottle Rocket” is the feather-light tale of fractured friends with big dreams for achieving small things.
The film is about those who should've already come of age.
Anthony Dignan and Bob appear to have all grown up in homes of financial means.
They should've been spectacular Roman candles pop-pop-popping in the sky for all to see, but alas they're only loud, snappy bottle rockets that echo for a few blocks and disappear.
Dignan is the ultimate dreamer, creating a 75-year plan in a spiral notebook, which includes such high-minded endeavors as “meet people from foreign country.”
Anthony is the affable tagalong, recently “sprung” from the “nuthouse,” who serves as the moral compass.
The 26-year-old Bob still lives in his parents' Frank Lloyd Wright home in downtown Dallas.
It is a museum dedicated to the decay of his parents' dreams, including Bob's middle-age Mercedes, Futureman's outdated Ford Bronco and brotherly enmity between Bob and Futureman — which is either the cause or result of their parents perpetual vacation.
The result is a deadpan delivered indie comedy classic.
Anderson's visual style was present from the beginning, with signature camera movements from medium to tight on human faces, offbeat characters of foreign descent, comedy derived from actions surrounding the central characters in a scene, absurdism, the camera's childlike fascination with small details, dry humor amid chaos, misplaced Christmas music, and cross-dressing eras via music, wardrobe and props.
“Bottle Rocket” might be among Anderson's most quotable works.
There is the inimitable: “On the run from Johnny Law; ain't no trip to Cleveland.”
There is this exchange preceding the bookstore heist:
Bob: “What are you putting that tape on your nose for?”
‘We're sharing these tamales'
Today's recipe is derived from some lines uttered by Anthony that are among my favorites in the film. While on the lam in Hillsboro, Texas, and holed up at the local Days Inn, Anthony falls for a housekeeper named Inez, played by Lumi Cavazos — star of one of the great food films of all time, “Like Water for Chocolate.”
When Anthony sees Inez standing next to her cleaning cart, she scratches her ankle with the toes of her other foot as she pulls back her hair. An old transistor radio bound in leather plays retro Tejano music. A pair of huaraches rests on the cart. He is smitten.
Anthony, clad in a bathrobe of many colors, follows Inez around the motel, helping change sheets and clean, as he harangues her about his life. He speaks no Spanish. She is working on her English. The conversation is limited. However, as they make it into the laundry room, they sit down for a little lunch and Anthony waxes poetic thusly: “This is great, here we are sitting in the laundry room — you're practicing your vocabulary, we're sharing these tamales. It's, it's just how I would've expected it.”
I love tamales, I love this film. And if you can't understand that, well, in the words of Dignan: “You, my dear friend, are a damn fool!”