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Listeria: Ten Most Underappreciated Pieces of Dialogue from Bottle Rocket (1996)

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on April 7, 2008

“You’re pretty complicated, huh?”
“I try not to be…”

To ascribe the word “underrated” to just about anything Wes Anderson has touched is a relatively useless statement; Anderson has been so lionized by the critical community (as well as by the generation of semi-devoted filmgoers coming of age when Rushmore hit it semi-big) that the relative scale of the movies’ quality is pretty unimportant. Still, if there’s one thing that the increasingly overbakedness of his later movies makes you really appreciate, it’s just how loose and unassuming Bottle Rocket is. The elements are there, certainly–the quirky preciousness, the montages set to 60s underground rock, the immature adults and overly mature kids–but it just feels more organic, more…innocent, I guess. The script feels appropriately meandering (the whole thing with Bob, his brother and his weed-growing farm is among film’s all-time great “what was the point of that?” sub-plots ), the dialogue feels more natural than it ever would again (Anthony’s declaration of love speech to Inez, while far from being quotable enough for this article, is brilliant in its sheer incoherence), and hell, it’s got Owen and Luke Wilson in that all-too-rare stage of their careers where they had no idea they could ever be considered celebrities.

Though I’m not sure I could say I enjoy it more than Rushmore and Tenenbaums (movies with recipes that brilliant are allowed to be so obviously cooked, I suppose), I do feel a certain level of comfort catching Bottle Rocket on TV that I don’t necessarily get with the others. It never feels stale, or cloying, or nearly as self-indulgent as his other works, and for those reasons, the movie’s few but legitimate moments of genuine drama (the scene where Dignan finds out that Anthony tricked him into giving away all their stolen loot money to Inez, especially) always strike me more than they do in his others. Plus, as should be obvious by now, it’s got a hell of a lot of great quotes–the kind that don’t jump out as obvious punchline quotes, but are insiduous in how gleefully unexpected they usually are, and in how much of the character they usually reveal. Here are ten reasons why I’d probably call Bottle Rocket my favorite Wes Anderson movie:

10. Anthony: “This is great! Sitting here in the laundary room, you working on your vocabulary, and we’re sharing these tamales…it’s just how I’d expect it.”

9. Bob (Driving): “I hate to interrupt your conversation, guys, but I think I know what you’ve been going through, man. ‘Coz I’ve been through some pretty heavy shit myself. If you’re feeling alone, like nobody in the world cares, and nobody in the fucking world gives a shit, then I’m here. I’m ready to listen, man–”
Anthony (Interrupting, not listening): “…that was a stop sign…”

8. Random Bathroomgoer: “Hello, my friend!”
Dignan (at stall): “Hey, hola amigo! Como estas?”
RB: “You are in the army, yes?”
Dignan: “No, I just have short hair!”

7. Anthony: “Don’t call her a housekeeper!
Dignan: “Don’t threaten me. That’s what she is. She is a housekeeper, right? People are housekeepers!

6. Anthony: “Dignan, you know what’s gonna happen if you go back there.”
Dignan: “No, I don’t. They’ll never catch me, man…‘coz I’m fucking innocent!

5.Dignan: “BACKYARD! RIGHT NOW! LET’S GO!
Bob: “Backyard? This is my house!”

4. Grace: “When are you coming home?”
Anthony: “Grace, I can’t come home. I’m an adult.”

3. Dignan: “He’s out. And you’re out too. And I don’t think I’m in either. No gang!

2. Dignan: “WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE??
Worker Hostage 1: “We work here!”
Dignan: “YOU’RE ALWAYS AT LUNCH NOW!!”
Worker Hostage 2: “…not always.”
Dignan: “YES, ALWAYS!!

1. Anthony (Explaining how he “went nuts”): “One morning, over at Elizabeth’s beach house, she asked me if I would rather go water skiing or lay out. And I realized that not only did I not want to answer that question, but I never wanted to answer another water-sports question…or see any of these people again…for the rest of my life.”

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9 Responses to “Listeria: Ten Most Underappreciated Pieces of Dialogue from Bottle Rocket (1996)”

  1. Jason L said

    Oh man, good list. You forgot my favorite one, which is (I’m paraphrasing here):

    Bank manager: “How come you’re wearing a piece of tape on your nose?”
    Dignan: (confused, then points gun at him in response)

  2. Kyle said

    So much to love for this one…
    Also the other time Dignan is asked about the tape on his nose from bob and he just replies, “Exactly.”

    Kumar losing his touch and Dignan telling him he never had a touch to lose.

    The entire conversation between Anthony & Grace, “How can you be exhausted? You’ve never worked a day in your life?” “For someone your age you’ve developed a terrible habit of asking a lot of questions.”

  3. intensities said

    Feel like I should mention somewhere that possibly the most underrated thing about BR is something there’s no real way to quanitfy on this list–James Caan as Mr. Henry. Pouring the water on Dignan, bullying Future Man, having kimono parties, practicing kung fu against skivvied Asian assistants, guilting Anthony into doing the heist…what a weird and wonderful character. Also has the best blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment in the movie when he’s playing Bob’s piano and singing something like “BOB’S GOT A BEAUTIFUL HOUSE, HEY HEY!!” before it cuts to whatever happens next. A split-second foreshadowing of his true intentions.

  4. billy said

    Excellent choice for #1. On the other hand, #6 might be the most memorable/quoted line from the movie.

  5. Justin said

    My favorite two lines not mentioned here are:

    Dignan: “On the run from Johnny Law. Ain’t no trip to Cleveland.”

    and

    Dignan (as he and Anthony are walking back out to Bob who is waiting at the dining room table): “How does an asshole like Bob get such a great kitchen!”

  6. Jason said

    I love when Dignan is telling Anthony that the kid said he loved him and Anthony realizes that Ynez said that and takes off running. Dignan says “Anthony wait, he’s just a mixed up kid”.

  7. julie said

    Love every line in this movie, but one hilarious moment not mentioned is when
    Dignon is getting beat up outside the bar and calls out, “Anthony! Antho-kacaw, kacaw!”

  8. Jen said

    The whole 2nd robbery scene of where Bob discharges the gun after the workers come in and ALL hell breaks loose. Dignan says “who tripped the alarm” and Anthony says “its the smoke alarm man” and Dignan says “who tripped the smoke alarm” and Anthony looks at him crazy and says “it’s because of all the smoke in the air”. The most priceless moment

  9. Nick said

    Hands down the best line is Dignan trying to convince Anthony in the front yard-Anthony: “The pictures not doing it for me Dignan”. Dignan: “Well does the fact that im trying to do it for you do it for you?

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