Bottle Rocket, in retrospect, feels like almost a parody of a Tarantino film. Or if not a Tarantino film, then one of the plethora of Tarantinoesque films that popped up in the mid-'90s in his wake. There's no way for anybody who wasn't there to imagine how many films about gabby hitmen and quirky small-time crooks came out in the '90s.
Had it been written fresh in '95 or '96, I'd conclude that's what Bottle Rocket was (among other things). Check the poster - that's how it was marketed. But the small-time crook kernel of the film can be found, intact, in the 1992 short that the feature grew out of, and I think '92 was a little early for a Tarantino parody. Which means that there really must have been something in the water in the early '90s. Why the sudden renaissance in the heist flick, however loosely defined? Was it a grunge thing? A post-Cold War thing? I was there - Anderson's my age - but I confess I never understood it.
Yes, I missed this at the time, too. I saw it now in an effort to catch up on the Wes Anderson I missed - I came in at Royal Tenenbaums. This one, maybe you had to be there for. The acting is fine, the writing fine, the characters reasonably subtle and pleasantly offbeat, but the small-time crooks motif feels so dated now that I found it off-putting. I definitely think Anderson only came into his own when he surrendered to his inner Salinger and started making every film a secret adaptation of part of the Glass family saga.
The best parts of this, after all, are Anthony's very Holden Caulfield-like scene with his little sister Grace and his early scenes with Ines: like Seymour in "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," with the water, the innocent girls, and the shell-shocked young man.