Rushmore (1998)

2016 #146
Wes Anderson | 89 mins | streaming (HD) | 2.35:1 | USA / English | 15 / R

RushmoreThe breakthrough film of cult writer-director Wes Anderson, Rushmore is the story of high school student Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman, making his debut, aged 18 but still looking like one of those twentysomethings-playing-highschoolers you so often see in US productions). He’s a prolific participator in extracurricular activities at the prestigious Rushmore Academy, but is put on notice for his failing academic standard. At the same time, he becomes infatuated with first grade teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams) and attempts to woo her by building an aquarium on school grounds. He enlists the support of local business magnate Herman Blume (Bill Murray), but soon Blume is falling for Miss Cross too, setting the men on a path of mutual enmity.

Having only seen Anderson’s three most recent films, it’s interesting to observe the early days of his distinctive style. The squared-off framing and blocking, the mannered acting, the interludes and asides, the not-quite-real / not-quite-fantasy quirkiness of it all… These things have only become more pronounced since, presumably as Anderson has become more confident in his own voice, or possibly as other behind-the-scenes forces have become more comfortable letting him do his thing. There might be an argument for newcomers to ease into Anderson’s unique world via something like this, but I kind of prefer the in-at-the-deep-end way I encountered him.

What do you mean 'quirky'?Part of that is probably tied to Anderson’s own development. It’s not only his very personal touches that have flourished with further films, but I feel like his storytelling and depiction of character has become more sophisticated, too. That’s not to say Rushmore comes up short, but coming to it for the first time with that degree of hindsight, it feels very much like a formative work.

Maybe I’m being unfair to it — it’s amusing and delightfully unpredictable in its own right — but it didn’t excite me in the same way as the other Andersons I’ve seen. Perhaps if I revisit it once I’ve plugged the gap between this and his later work, I’ll be able to enjoy it for itself rather than playing “spot the directorial development”.

4 out of 5

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