Rushmore (1998) – Wes Anderson (Friday’s Finest)

I’m surprised this is the first movie to appear here on ‘Friday’s Finest’ from director Wes Anderson. His eccentric and distinctive visual and narrative styles of film-making have made a great impression on the cinema world. He has created a niche – a brand of movie art that is entirely his own invention. There are no other movies like Wes Anderson movies. He is known by many critics as as a modern-day example of the auteur. Although he hasn’t made many movies – just 9 , each of them exude that irrepressible Anderson charm of direction.

It’s to be expected that actor Bill Murray features in many of his movies because Bill’s unconventional and peculiar manner of performance aligns so well with Anderson’s vision. Today’s featured film Rushmore is one of his less well known movies, but it is a keeper. Murray out does himself in this. I think it’s the funniest I have seen Murray in a minor part. Murray may have overstayed his welcome by leading Anderson’s 2004 film The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou where his freakish deadpan delivery seemed excessive for a protagonist, here in Rushmore Murray is used perfectly.

Max Fischer played by Jason Schwartzman isn’t the most likeable character. On the surface he seems a precocious little know it all, so self absorbed at high school that he thinks he can achieve and lead anything and anyone. Unlike his classmates who turn up to school and do the drill, he as a teen wants to make a meaningful difference in paving the lives of others towards achieving something extraordinary. Unfortunately Max is not someone gifted or insanely talented in any field and he continually fails at excelling in anything. Even to the point he is threatened with expulsion for his poor grades because of his hell-bent obsession on extra-curricular activities. Fortunately for him Max has important adult contacts and a certain charm which helps him time and time again to get out of the ruts his unfettered exuberance leads him into.

Max isn’t very likeable, but his ideals and endeavours are and as a viewer you might find yourself rooting for Max after a while. His encounters with anyone he comes into contact including his beautiful teacher Rosemary Cross played by Olivia Williams are endearing but offbeat funny in that Anderson mode. I just want to give a shout out to Olivia William’s sublime performance in The Ghost Writer which has featured here on Fridays. As alluded to above Bill Murray’s performance in this, in particular his interactions with the prematurely developed Max is something to behold.

Rushmore is by no way a movie I would expect to be liked by a mainstream audience. It seems to want to offend and be different. It has a lot of things that modern day movie cinema lacks: dry humor, distinct writing and music and a real heart. I used to think that Royal Tenenbaums (2001) was Anderson’s first good film and Rushmore a floored attempt. But Anderson’s vision requires an adjustment period.

I now would prefer to see Rushmore over Royal, as crazy as that may seem. It’s just an easier viewing experience for me. The whole Rushmore thing is seriously funny and somehow seriously real, but at the same time doesn’t always take itself seriously. The idea of the movie doesn’t come off sounding like a very captivating plot: high school geek and middle-aged millionaire fall in love with the same first grade teacher. Not exactly material for a high-grossing box office hit. But I don’t think plot necessarily matters when it comes to making a quality film.

“The more I live, the more I learn. The more I learn, the more I realize, the less I know.”- Michel Legrand

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