Rushmore (1998)

“Maybe I’m spending too much of my time starting up clubs and putting on plays. I should probably be trying harder to score chicks.”

#2 of Wes Anderson Series

Rushmore is known as the film that really put Wes Anderson on the map. It showcased all of the things that people currently expect and love from the director, including great writing, witty humor, perfect music selections, and unique characters. Rushmore is the tale of Max Fischer, a 15 year old who devotes all of his time to an assortment of extra curricular activities but is currently flunking every class. Anderson puts us inside of Max’s world and will have you absorbed in the his relationships with some unlikely people. 

Plot: Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) has just found out he is on academic probation, despite the fact that he dedicates all of his time to leading or starting up new clubs at the school. His life starts to become even more chaotic as he falls in love with one of the teachers at Rushmore, Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), and befriends a wealthy tycoon, Herman Blume (Bill Murray). Blume and Fischer have a good friendship going until Blume also finds himself attracted to Rosemary, making Fischer’s life even more complicated.

Rushmore is the quintessential coming of age story, in which our hero faces what it’s like to go through complete loneliness when he loses the woman of his dreams to his close friend. Although Max is such a weird character, there is still a little bit of him that everybody can relate to. In the end, despite all of those things that make him unlikable, he is just a kid who is filled with ambition. As I was watching this movie, I didn’t get attached to it right away. I have a feeling it’s one of those movies that needs a second or third viewing in order to be fully appreciated. Schwartzman’s character has to grow on you. I found him really interesting, he has kind of a snobby attitude yet there’s also that rebellious side that parallels that.  While watching, the comparison of Max to the character of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye dawned on me and makes me wonder if Anderson was trying to go for that.

The big difference I would say from this film to the director’s previous, Bottle Rocket, would be the significant difference in character depth in this one. In Bottle Rocket, the main thing that disappointed me was not knowing the characters well enough. They seemed like they could be really interesting if we had just went into a little more depth with them. Well, Anderson certainly fixed that for Rushmore. All of the characters have some sort of depth to them, whether it’s Max, Blume, Rosemary, or Max’s sidekick Dirk.  We see different sides from all of them. Schwartzman definitely steals the show though, this being his feature debut, he was impressive as the adolescent in search of more from life and certainly gave a very memorable performance.

Anderson gives us a dark comedy that mixes in tons of emotion into the characters and story. It won’t be some peoples favorite movie because Anderson works to give some sort of deeper understanding to his films than other more easily understood and shallower movies. This is what I like so much from the director so far and although Bottle Rocket was just a fizzle, Rushmore was certainly the bang. Not to say that Bottle Rocket isn’t a worthy movie or anything, I certainly enjoyed it. I’m just guessing that it took a movie like Rushmore to come along and get everybody used to Anderson’s unique style of making movies and for Anderson to truly master what he wanted to portray to the audience.

Conclusion: Rushmore certainly made the world aware of the unique and soon-to-be established director that is Wes Anderson. My first viewing of it I was unsure if it was truly the great piece of film making that everybody raves it to be, but I came to the conclusion that it’s really one of those movies that needs another viewing to be completely understood. It’s definitely not the conventional coming of age story you expect, it’s much more. It’s not meant to be hysterically funny, happy, or at all perfect. It’s as unconventional as it gets and is what Anderson really stands for in all of his films.

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