The Films of Wes Anderson: Rushmore
Rushmore was the first Wes Anderson movie I ever saw. I had heard much about it and when I finally saw the film, I ended up loving it. I found it to be wonderfully entertaining, funny and dry and witty but also, at times, melancholic and poignant. That's about the perfect movie for me--one that makes me laugh time and time again, then turns and punches me in the gut with emotional resonance. I can get behind a movie like that every time.
Rushmore is easily Anderson's funniest and most purely entertaining movie. I might place The Royal Tenenbaums above Rushmore in terms of which one is the best film Wes Anderson has made, but Rushmore is an easier viewing. It's funnier, plain and simple, and that comedy is a success due to both Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. As the main character, Max Fischer, Schwartzman is hilarious playing an eager, overly ambitious but failing student at Rushmore Academy. He participates in just about every extracurricular activity there is, writes, directs and produces plays and founds many clubs of his own, but he can't seem to actually pass his classes. He loves Rushmore--it's his life.
Schwartzman is pitch perfect in the movie. His delivery is magnificent, particularly in his scenes with Olivia Williams, who plays the teacher Rosemary Cross, whom Max quickly falls in love with. It's in this complicated relationship between the two that the movie really finds its heart. The relationship ends up being played for laughs, heartbreak and discomfort, and is used for a very incisive look into inappropriate infatuations between inept males and unreachable (for them) females. Anderson writes the relationship perfectly, showing both the honest caring that Max has for Ms. Cross and the misogynistic sense of ownership he claims at other times.
This is all complicated by Bill Murray's character, Herman Blume. Now, first of all, Bill Murray is brilliant in this movie. He is both serious and funny and this role, more than any other, is surely the precursor to his magnificent turn in Lost In Translation. In fact, this role is what first moved Bill Murray into more serious acting roles. Rushmore is responsible for Murray being seen as a serious actor as well as a comic actor, and that alone cements the importance of the film. Aside from the more serious tones of the character, though, Murray is also consistently funny in Rushmore. There's a scene in a hospital elevator that is riotous, but in an understated manner. When the scene climaxes with a disheveled and thoroughly dejected Murray lighting a cigarette and placing it in his mouth next to another, already lit cigarette, I could hardly stop laughing. It doesn't seem like it would be as funny as it is, but the context is perfect and Murray nails the mannerisms.
Aside from Murry and Schwartzman, Olivia Williams puts in a great turn as Ms. Cross. She has an easy grace about her that fits the character perfectly and that comes across as authentic and genuine. She is kind with Max at first, as they initially become friends and he shows an obvious affection toward her. However, she becomes increasingly frustrated with him as he becomes more and more forward and unreasonable. When she finally faces him down and tears into him late in the movie, after he has caused endless trouble--demanding, in harsh terms, to know just what kind of relationship he thinks they will end up having--she is brutal and completely realistic. We are as frustrated and annoyed with Max by that point as she is and we can't help but nod in agreement as she dismantles his silly fantasies one by one. We can see, as well, how hard the situation is--how difficult it is for her to be so brutally honest and cruel to him but how it is entirely necessary and appropriate, the only way to make him realize how ridiculous and inappropriate his actions are. We feel for both of them in that moment, but our sympathies are most firmly cast with Ms. Cross, even as she excoriates a child.
That is why Rushmore is great. There are scenes like that which are brutal and all too real, and soon after that we are again laughing at the riduclous antics of Max Fischer and Herman Blume. Our hearts are breaking at one point and then we are amazed at the absurdity of these characters in the next moment. The movie is endlessly entertaining while also confronting, without hesitation, the realities of love and incompetence, of childhood and death and even misogyny. It does it all, seemlessly and honestly, without the slightest sense of uncertainty. That's rare, and it makes Rushmore well worth your time.
The Films of Wes Anderson: Bottle Rocket