Saturday, February 26, 2011

Rushmore (1998)

Rushmore is top of the class.

Director Wes Anderson's follow-up to Bottle Rocket is filled with great characters, fantastic music, a winning story and an incredible debut performance by Jason Schwartzman.


Max Fischer (Schwartzman) is a Grade 10 student at Rushmore Academy. He loves everything about the private school, except his academics. When the film starts, he's meeting with patient principal Dr. Nelson Guggenheim (Brian Cox). Still struggling with his marks, he's on sudden death academic probation.

"Oh no, not again," says his chapel partner Dirk Calloway (Mason Gamble) when he hears the news. Fischer considers his alternatives and parking himself in front of the books isn't one of them.

Fischer is so busy heading, or creating, school clubs from lacrosse and yearbook to stamp and coin to beekeeping, his marks are awful.

He's further distracted when he meets Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), the school's new Grade 1 teacher. She's attached to Rushmore because her late husband was a graduate. Fischer, who's never spent much time chasing the ladies, is in love.

But Herman Blume (Bill Murray), the parent of two boys who attend Rushmore, is also keen on winning Cross's affections. He's a successful and rich businessman, but his wife is fooling around with a younger man and he loathes his sons.

Fischer and Blume's initial friendship -- Blume has a soft spot for Fischer's ambitious goals, Fischer admires Blume's rooting for the underdog -- goes sour when the younger suitor learns of his older friend's pursuit of Cross.

A teenage boy's pursuit of an older teacher may make some unease, but Anderson (who co-wrote the script with Owen Wilson) depicts their relationship well. She treats Max kindly, but is never seriously interested in a romance with the teenager. Max has lessons to learn about life and love.


What a treat it is to see Murray shine in the roll of steel boss Blume. He's impressed me with a string of strong performances in films such as Quick Change, Groundhog Day and Ed Wood. But Rushmore could be his best work yet.

Rushmore is filled with great supporting characters too including Fischer's chapel partner, Dirk Calloway (Mason Gamble), Max's father Bert (Seymour Cassel) and Cox. There are no dumb adults here. Instead, they're supportive, inspired or frustrated with Fischer.
Schwartzman shines in his first film role. What a find.

Rushmore is impressive too with everyone from The Who and John Lennon to Yves Montand and The Kinks featured on the soundtrack. Instrumental pieces by Devo's Mark Mothersbaugh are also a delight.

If there was any justice in the cinematic world, Rushmore would have been a huge moneymaker. But smart movies sometimes don't translate into big audiences. That's too bad because Rushmore is a great film.

Rating: 9/10

FUN FACTS: Bill Murray won best supporting actor awards from National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics Circle Award. He was nominated for a Golden Globe. Rushmore didn't receive any Academy Award nominations. Pity. Several cast members have appeared in other films by Wes Anderson including Seymour Cassel (The Royal Tenembaums), Brian Cox (Fantastic Mr. Fox) and Bill Murray (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). Co-screenwriter Owen Wilson appeared in Bottle Rocket.

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