Director: Wes Anderson
Writer: Owen Wilson, Wes Anderson
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman)’s life is centered around Rushmore, one of the best private schools in the country. Not that he’s any good in class; he’s one of the worst students. Or not that he’s any popular; he’s some sort of quirky kid who prefers to hang with grown-ups. No, Max is just extremely involved with extracurricular activities. He edits the yearbook, he stages elaborate plays and he’s the president of various clubs dedicated to fencing, beekeeping, French, model UN and many more. The film has Max befriending two adults who will change his life. There’s Mr Blume (Bill Murray), a bitter, self-hating millionaire who recognizes himself in the ambitious Max. And then there’s Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), an adorable first-grade teacher with whom both Max and Blume fall in love. That leads to a war between the two, and that’s just part of the rather odd coming of age of Max.
This is the second feature of indie filmmaker Wes Anderson, whose debut was the hilarious “Bottle Rocket”. He wrote the screenplay with Owen Wilson again and the finished product is a rather unique and unpredictable film. In a way, this is a film about a high school kid discovering love, but the treatment is so unusual that it would be unfair to describe it that restrictively. Anderson uses a lot of visual tricks like slow-motion, montage and jump cuts, yet it’s never flashy or show-off. His direction is assured, the photography is gorgeous and the Brit Invasion soundtrack gives the film an even more offbeat feel.
And then there’s the cast, which interprets superbly the characters without turning them into caricatures. Jason Schwartzman is great as Max, a seemingly solemn young man with one hell of an attitude and a wicked sense of humor. Bill Murray is very funny as always, but he’s also a wonderful actor who always hits the right note. There’s something very poignant about his portrayal of a tycoon uncomfortable in his own world. The other actors are also very good, but the film lies between the two men.
I have one small problem with “Rushmore”: it kind of doesn’t pay off. I was impressed by Anderson’s filmmaking and the cast, but the film never quite overwhelmed me like some of my favorite coming-of-age comedies (“Say Anything”, “The Graduate”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, etc.). The eccentric, tragicomic tone ultimately makes it hard to truly be seduced by the film. The craftsmanship is brilliant, but I just didn’t feel that much for these characters. This is still a film not to be missed if you’re tired of conventionality.