Wes Anderson’s whimsical cinema sometimes gets a little irritating. For me, Anderson films are divided into two very distinct categories; the ones that work and the ones that drift off a little. Those that work include The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom and of course Rushmore. I like both Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Darjeeling Limited very much but even a fan like myself can admit that they have problems. Anderson tends to teeter between the marvellous and the over indulgent. It is a fine line between the two for this specific director whose work is so expertly crafted and crammed full of minute details that make up his easily recognisable and highly influential aesthetic and atmosphere. Anderson, when he gets it right, is a force to be reckoned with. Never did he get it more right than with his second feature film, Rushmore. The film tells the story of Max Fischer, a prep school student whose devout commitment to the extra-curricular programmes is not enough to stop his poor grades from having his place at the school jeopardised. The eccentric Max must fight for his place at his beloved ‘Rushmore’ as well as for the heart of a teacher whom he competes for alongside a wealthy industrialist, played by Bill Murray who is as flawless as ever in one of his infamous Anderson collaborations.
Jason Schwartzman plays Max in a debut cinematic performance like no other. Anderson certainly has a way of picking fresh talent which he has gone on to demonstrate again since making Rushmore in 1998. Schwartzman is mesmerising as Max. His frustration at his own academic limitations bubble under an ambitious and confident surface. Max encounters numerous obstacles in his quest for his place at Rushmore, as well as in the quests for love, all of which he faces with the mind-set of an adult. We get the impression that Max has absorbed one to many bad plays or daytime TV melodramas because of the dramatic and intense way that he approaches many situations. The funniest scene takes place in a restaurant where Max mocks and insults his love’s date. His snobbery and his adult manner are contrasted by his school uniform and the childish exterior, making for many an amusing juxtaposition throughout Rushmore. Anderson knows just how to write teenage characters and Schwartzman brings this particular adolescent to life before us. There is a consistent humour that keeps resurfacing amidst an unstoppable script, co-created by both Anderson and Owen Wilson. Rushmore is a cool movie. It looks cool, it sounds cool and it is, wholeheartedly, cool. A mixture of coolness and absurdity has gone on to blatantly shape more contemporary indie teen flicks such as Juno and Napoleon Dynamite. Underneath all the fashionable layers of Rushmore lies something more, that turns Anderson’s greatest work into something other than cool. Anderson and Wilson’s deep empathy towards, and understanding of, Max Fischer and his puzzled but determined outlook on life make this not just a cool teen movie but one of the most poignant and insightful high school movies of recent years.
Thanks for reading and let’s all keep supporting our beloved film industry.