Thursday, 17 April 2014

April Fools: Rushmore (1998)

Directed by Wes Anderson, who also co-wrote the script with Owen Wilson, Rushmore is a film perfectly poised as something that fans of the director will love, while also being one of his more accessible works for those unused to his preferred aesthetics.

Jason Schwartzman plays Max Fischer, a confident teenager who thinks that he's an excellent student at school, despite the fact that he's failing in a number of subjects. He is, however, involved in numerous extra-curricular activities. If there's a club for it then he'll often be a member. In fact, he'll often be the one who started up the club in the first place. But drama is his main love, as shown by the plays that he likes to put on for the school. Well, drama is his main love until he sees Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). Then she becomes his main love. Unfortunately, she is a teacher and he is just a fifteen-year-old boy, despite his attempts to show himself in a more mature light. Herman Blume (Bill Murray) likes Max, and the two become friends. Herman wishes that his own children were more like this determined, sensible young man. But that changes when he also meets Rosemary.

Rushmore is a hard film to write about, in some ways, because it's quite simply a near-perfect script that's being delivered by actors all perfect in their roles, and directed perfectly by Anderson. Job done. But it's in all the details that the movie excels, be it the nuance of a performance or the many pieces of set decoration showing the fastidious nature of Max when he puts his mind to something. The soundtrack is also, yep, almost perfect, with a finale that blends the onscreen visuals with some particularly good audio choices to make for a quietly effective, and surprisingly powerful, curtain call.

It's hard to believe that this was the first onscreen acting role for Schwartzman, so good is he in the role of Max. He's arrogant, sweet, annoying, precocious, pitiable, enviable, and stubborn, but he's also just young, and the movie allows viewers to see him grow, even if it's only by a small degree. Williams is wonderful as Rosemary, because she's easy to fall in love with. And then there's good ol' Bill Murray, putting in the kind of performance that would have stolen every scene he was in, had he not been in such an altogether strong film. Smaller roles for Brian Cox, Seymour Cassel and Luke Wilson all prove rewarding in their own way, and Sara Tanaka and Mason Gamble both make a great impression as youngsters beguiled by Max in slightly different ways.

Fans of Wes Anderson should love this, but this is also a film that can be enjoyed by those who don't think that they like the man's style. His stamp remains on almost every scene, but this is a slightly more subdued affair compared to the films that he would go on to give audiences over the next two decades.

Love or hate Anderson, I encourage you to check out Rushmore. It remains a high point in the filmographies of everyone involved.


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