Directed By Wes Anderson
Buena Vista Pictures
By: Eric Greenwood
Wes Anderson follows up his offbeat debut film, Bottle Rocket, with a twisted coming-of-age story about a tenth grader named Max Fisher, who eschews all classwork in favor of leading a slew of extra-curricular clubs, including the Bombardment Club (dodgeball) and the Fencing Society. Fisher, like Ferris Bueller, gets away with ludicrous things at school like putting on a dramatic interpretation of Serpico or petitioning to have Latin class put back on the schedule just because a teacher he has a crush on think it’s a shame for it to be dropped. When he hears Bill Murray as a wealthy alumnus give a motivational speech in Chapel he knows he has found a fellow deviant, but soon Murray’s depressed character falls for Max’s crush and betrays his friend. The ensuing battle for love is a bizarre onslaught of pranks and humiliations, hilariously dircted by Anderson, whose attention to background detail is genius.
Murray plays his character with such pathos and subtlety that we understand what he’s thinking just by his expressions. Anderson wrote the depressed millionaire tycoon character specifically for Murrray, and it turns out to be his best comedic performance in years. Jason Schwartzman is in his debut role as Max Fisher, but he is no stranger to the business because his mother is Talia Shire (Adrian from the Rocky movies) and his uncle is Francis Ford Coppola. Schwartzman’s sense of comedic timing is spot on, and his awkward features make Max seem larger than life, almost cartoonish- like a nerd version of Tom Cruise. Anderson surrounds Max with quirky characters that deflect some of his eccentricities but make it even more poignant when he becomes an outcast among outcasts when he is expelled from Rushmore.
Anderson fills his film with British invasion rock to represent Max’s controlled chaos, and the picture unfolds as an instant classic right before your eyes. Rushmore has that shock humor quality that gave Harold And Maude its cult following back in 1971. It’s a rare breed of film that can create an alternate reality that we actively want to participate in and Rushmore does just that. Anderson’s frequently fantastical world is ridiculously funny, but there is an underlying sadness that balances itself out and keeps Rushmore from being a frivolous collage of wacky skits. Max’s borderline insane determination to win the love of an older teacher tests our sympathies because Max clearly goes too far, but we understand his plight and still want him to succeed. Wes Anderson is clearly the writer-director we’ve been waiting for, and there won’t be a better movie than Rushmore this year.