Wes Anderson’s sophomore effort Rushmore is a film that truly defies categorization. It knows what it is but leaves us to figure it out. It’s funny, original, old-fashioned, and honest all at the same time and at different times, as well. It’s a film that exists in its own reality where things are quite similar to how they are in the real world. It’s a film that doesn’t force you to like its protagonist and where you are allowed to simply observe a character instead of trying to sympathize with a character. It’s a film that uses its soundtrack very, very wisely. It’s a film, that, quite simply, isn’t like anything you’ll ever see.
Rushmore tells the tale of Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), who attends Rushmore Academy and excels at extracurricular’s but not academics. He makes friendships with a 1st grade teacher (Olivia Williams) and a self-made millionaire (Bill Murray). Describing the rest of the plot from here on out seems pointless and a bad idea. The reason being is because Rushmore doesn’t feature a standard plot or narrative. The film goes from one issue to the next, changes its mind (mirroring the changing nature of the characters), and does what it thinks is best. This works for the film strongly, since it’s always nice to see a film with a changing narrative and this style suits the nature of the story. If you were to watch the trailer for Rushmore, it would give you pretty much the information I’ve provided, since that’s all it really can provide; to say more would be to spoil a story that a trailer could simply not summarize.
Anderson’s use of a 2.35:1 aspect ratio is expressive and put to better use than most films where humour is present throughout. It’s beautifully shot with normal colors (nothing crazy) and with a sense of realism; the look and feel of an indie film. As is Anderson’s forte, he takes advantage of the many angles and corners that the widescreen display provides to him. Many scenes fill up every space of the screen to an advantageous degree, allowing Anderson to add things in the background if he chooses. Of course, there is the occasional there-is-only-one-person-on-the-screen-doing-nothing scenes, but even these lone shots of characters look fantastic in the long widescreen. For whatever reason, all the shots in Rushmore look well orchestrated and done even if it is merely a shot of a kite in the sky.
The film’s dialogue is fantastic and all the actors in the film do a wonderful job, but as it is, the standouts are Schwartzman and Murray. Schwartzman embodies the role of Max completely to the point that I don’t see the actor but the character. The same goes for Murray. When these two are on the screen, I see an arrogant and ambitious youngster who is friends with a self-loathing millionaire. It’s no wonder that Murray won an award for his role and it’s amazing that after years of seeing Schwartzman in other projects, I still can’t recognize him when he plays Max. Mason Gamble is excellent as Max’s best friend Dirk Calloway and Brian Cox as Mr. Guggenheim is hilariously wonderful.
The film’s soundtrack is outstanding, featuring such memorable tracks as The Creation’s “Making Time” and even an excerpt of the Who’s “A Quick One While He’s Away” (the film uses a live version of the song). Even the Faces “Ooh La La” is included in the final scene, and its inclusion feels more justified than most songs that end films. Anderson did a tremendous job concocting an authentic story that pays tribute to the cinema of the past as well as the pain and determination of the adolescent in all of us. Rushmore never denies that it’s not a mainstream film and, much like it’s protagonist, would think it self superior to anything Hollywood usually cooks up.