Essential Film: Rushmore

By Jenna Robertson

Wes Anderson films are unmistakable. Bitter-sweet, whimsical, and almost surreal, a viewer knows immediately when they are watching one of his masterpieces. Of all his films, perhaps the most perfect blend of all Anderson’s trademarks (slow motion scenes, beautifully funny dialogue, and a retro soundtrack, to name just a few) is his second cinematic venture, 1998’s Rushmore.

The film stars Jason Schwartzman (a Wes Anderson staple) as Max Fischer, a fifteen year old student of the eponymous, prestigious school, Rushmore. Max is dynamic and precocious, with a hand in all of the school’s clubs and societies, but is failing academically, and struggling to find a niche – his only true talent is attending Rushmore. Max becomes friends with jaded millionaire, Herman Blume (Bill Murray), who is trapped in a loveless marriage and also finds himself discontented. The two fight for the affections of Miss Cross (Olivia Williams),a beautiful, young teacher at Rushmore, and the film sees them deal with the consequences of this, as well Max’s coming of age in a world where he doesn’t seem to fit in, or at least doesn’t want to.

Rushmore is so much more than your average ‘eccentric youngster struggles to fit in’ comedy and you don’t have to be a teenager to relate to it. In fact, it is deserving of a genre of its own. There are elements of reality, and the characters are endearing. However, Anderson knows when to inject just enough whimsy to avoid entering into maudlin, angst ridden territory, which happens too often in coming-of-age films. Added to this is a perfect balance of humour and sentimentality, coupled with unforgettable performances from the whole cast. Murray in particular excels as disillusioned Blume and Schwartzman, in his film debut, plays the relentless Max Fischer to perfection.

There are many reasons as to why Rushmore is an essential film, but, personally, it is essential to me because watching the film really is a joyful experience. As a fan of Anderson, and cinema in general, the film excites me. As a young person with uncertainties about the future, Rushmore captivates and speaks to me. Intelligent as he is, Max finds it difficult to focus and is not at all prepared for what life will throw at him, a predicament that all students can probably relate to on some level. Despite his troubles, Max, to quote Miss Cross, “really makes a go of it”, and watching him do so is wonderfully cathartic. As we see him come out the other end not entirely unaffected and The Faces sing “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger”, it warms us, because we are witnessing a realistic, happy ending, a rarity for any genre of film.

In a nutshell, Rushmore is hilarious, bitter-sweet, sentimental, and ultimately comforting. I can’t promise that you won’t feel a bit haunted after watching, but you will definitely be all the better for it.