Skip to main content

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #175: Rushmore

If you are ever flipping channels and you start watching a film that has already started, it shouldn’t take you too long to realize you are watching a Wes Anderson film. Rushmore (1998), his second feature film, has him finding his groove. It is filled with his signature symmetrical compositions, flat space camera moves, quirky and dry humour, and beautiful art direction. It is also Anderson’s first collaboration with the great Bill Murray, with whom he would work again on every one of his movies. Could there be an alternate universe in which these two have worked on Ghostbusters 3?

The first Wes Anderson movie I ever saw was his third, The Royal Tenenbaums, which can be a bit jarring if you are not used to his style. Everyone can agree he has topped himself with 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel by not only delivering a beautiful and funny film, but showing us there is a great comedian within the master of villains that is Ralph Fiennes. Since Rushmore is set in a school there is probably no better place to watch it than with fellow students at a school campus, which is what I did by the time I got to it around 2009 while at the University of Sherbrooke with members of the film club. Given the many extracurricular activities Max Fisher, the film’s protagonist, organizes I imagine he would have been proud of us.

Fisher (Jason Schwartzman, another frequent Anderson collaborator) is a student of the prestigious Rushmore Academy in Houston. Judging by the way he presents himself you would think he is one of the top students there. He is well spoken, ambitious, confident, and very organized since he is in charge of many after-school clubs, from the debate team to the Rushmore beekeepers. The problem is he spends so much time on those various clubs he ends up spending very little time doing actual schoolwork, making him one of the worst students in the school and a major thorn in the backside of school headmaster Dr. Guggenheim (Brian Cox).

Max’s personality attracts the attention of Herman Blume, an industrialist who has two boys at the academy, but since they are both spoiled brats he finds an unlikely friend in the young Max. Given the way Max constantly tries to behave like an adult it is not surprising he would strike a friendship with a person old enough to be his dad. The next logical step is of course for Max to fall in love with an older woman, even worse a teacher at the school.

The teacher in question, Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), tolerates Max’s affections for a while, but lets him know things could never work out between them. Things could however work out between Rosemary and Herman, even if Herman is married, which is when the film takes a turn into somewhat slapstick territory. Upon finding out his friend is dating the woman he loves, Max declares war by putting bees in his office, and Herman retaliates by running over Max’s bike. The adult man and the schoolboy go from having an adult friendship to fighting like a couple of teenagers.    

Rushmore takes you by surprise because you never know what to expect. Max acts like the smartest and most mature kid in school, but of course he comes to realize he just a kid after all. You do not expect a restrained performance from Bill Murray, especially not in the 1990s when his biggest movies were Groundhog Day, Kingpin, and Space Jam. Yet here he plays a cynical man going through a mid-life crisis who chugs a glass of whisky before jumping into a dirty pool while wearing Budweiser swimming trunks and smoking a cigarette.


For Murray Rushmore was the indication he had a bright future in independent films delivering nuanced performances as flawed human beings. For Anderson it was the beginning of many great collaborations and a big step forward in him defining his signature style as one of the best filmmakers working today.   

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #70: Stand by Me

Another clear influence on Stranger Things, Rob Reiner’s Stand by Me (1986) portrays American kids from a lost era in which they could go on an adventure away from home. Nowadays if children go missing for more than an hour parents try to locate them using cell phone apps, but in the story written by Stephen King four boys in 1959 Oregon go walking in the woods during a long weekend to look for, of all things, a dead body. Their lives are sometimes at risk, they have no way of communicating with their parents, but they will definitely have a story to remember for the rest of their lives.
For many North Americans adults this movie fondly reminded them of a time in their childhood despite the inherent danger. Not so for me since, first of all, there was no time in my childhood when I could possibly go out of the house for more than three hours without my mom getting in her car to go look for me. The there is the fact that I spent a good chunk of my childhood living in Chile and Peru, an…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #364: Natural Born Killers

Natural Born Killers (1994) is not so much a movie as an American nightmare come to life. Loosely based on a story by Quentin Tarantino, starring some of the wildest actors in Hollywood at the time, and boasting a level of violence that unfortunately inspired copycat crimes, it is the textbook definition of controversial. In all fairness there are important messages amidst all the violent mayhem, but director Oliver Stone throws so much content at the screen that these messages can sometimes get lost in the carnage.
Even though the movie came out more than two decades ago it still has a legendary status, which I learned about while reading a chapter in a book about Tarantino’s career. The book, Quintessential Tarantino, contained a lot of interesting facts about the making of the movie and also spoiled the ending, but reading a few words that describe a killing spree is very different than seeing it portrayed on screen. A few years ago the director’s cut became available on Netflix, wh…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #29: Die Hard

This year I have been going all over the place with this Greatest Movies List, sometimes reviewing the next movie on the list, sometimes reviewing one I saw a few weeks ago. Since I am playing fast and loose with the rules, and since this is the Holiday season, why not skip down the list to what is arguably one of the all time greatest Christmas movies, Die Hard (1988)? Some people like to spend the Christmas season watching an angel get its wings, some like to watch a millionaire learn the meaning of Christmas, I like to watch Alan Rickman read the words “Now I have a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho.”
After five movies I think even the most die-hard fans (wink) would agree this franchise has gone on for too long, but the first three movies are some of the best action movies of the 80s and 90s. I actually watched them out of order, starting with the second one, followed by the third and eventually making it to the one that started it all at Nakatomi Plaza on Christmas Eve. Watching those movi…