Rushmore (1998)

An oddball coming-of-age comedy revolving around a prep school student that is well-staged to a fault.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review #985

Dir. Wes Anderson
1998 | USA | Comedy/Drama | 93 mins | 2.35:1 | English, Spanish, Latin & French
PG (passed clean) for language and brief nudity

Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams
Plot: A precocious fifteen-year-old at the prestigious Rushmore Academy befriends a cynical industrialist, but things get complicated when both of them have their sights set on the same woman, a teacher at the school.
Awards: Official Selection (Toronto); Nom. for Best Supporting Actor (Golden Globes)

Distributor: Disney

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Student Life
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream

Viewed: Criterion Blu-ray
First Published: 30 Dec 2013
Spoilers: No

I used to confuse Wes Anderson with Paul Thomas Anderson.  Not anymore. 

Both are great filmmakers, though some may argue for P.T.A as the more masterful director, of which I agree wholeheartedly, but Wes is certainly the more distinctive one, a visual stylist with a knack for creating oddball characters and quite rightly one of the very few filmmakers working today whose craft is immediately recognizable. 

I think ‘craft’ is an apt descriptor, because Wes Anderson doesn’t just make films; he crafts them with a precise mise-en-scene rarely seen in American cinema, with some critics even labeling Anderson’s works as Euro-American. 

Rushmore, his sophomore film after the small hit Bottle Rocket (1996), centers on Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) who is an eccentric, highly ambitious prep school student studying in Rushmore.  He is the president of countless school clubs, and frequently directs stage plays for his bemused school staff and schoolmates. 

However, he is doing very badly in his subjects and occasionally makes a nuisance of himself in various fashions, and is eventually put under academic probation to his chagrin.  But he must have his way!  And out comes a picture about a rebel and the relationships he forge with those who come across his path.

“I saved Latin.  What did you ever do?”

The cast of Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Olivia Williams give good, though not memorable, performances.  The characters are far more interesting than the performances, and this is often a consistent ‘fault’ in many of Anderson’s films, including The Darjeeling Limited (2007) and Moonrise Kingdom (2012). 

Maybe that’s the reason, because as much as I admire his creativity and artistic sensibilities, I have been trying to find an explanation as to why some of his films don’t quite resonate with me as much as with other film enthusiasts. 

Rushmore continues to be a coming-of-age cult favourite of the 1990s, and one of the more treasured Anderson’s works.  Like Max’s staged plays, the film is peculiar and off-kilter.  While ultimately it alludes to the nostalgia of college life and the fleeting feeling of infatuation, Rushmore is not necessarily poignant. 

I have mixed feelings – should I feel happy, or should I feel sad?  Maybe it is to feel both at the same time.  Normally, one doesn’t ask but simply feel.  But Wes Anderson for better or worse doesn’t quite accomplish that.  Some say he is a genius; I say he is a genius at what he does.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.

Grade: B-




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