Top 100 Films #38 – Rushmore (1998)

 

bill-murray-rushmore#38. Rushmore (1998)
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Written by: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Seymour Cassel, Olivia Williams, Luke Wilson

Rushmore was only Wes Anderson’s second film, and it was already clear that he was going to be a force to be reckoned with in American independent cinema.  His penchant for quirky dialogue, situational humor, and meticulously crafted visuals pushed him to a career that currently sees him as one of the most popular independent filmmakers in the world.  Rushmore was his second of three highly successful writing collaborations with actor Owen Wilson, whose brother Luke appears in the film.  The story sees young Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) struggling to balance his grades and many extracurriculars at Rushmore Academy, a Texas-based private school that is seemingly far out of Max’s league. Max strikes up a close friendship with the disillusioned and wealthy Rushmore donator Herman Blume (Bill Murray).  The two eventually fall for new first grade teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), who Herman begins a private affair with after persuading Max to let go of his feelings of her.  When Max finds out about the affair, he and Herman begin a war for Rosemary’s affections.  Wes Anderson’s Rushmore is one of the funniest, most quirky films of the 1990’s – it would be a sign of things to come in the young director’s later career.  While it doesn’t feature quite the amount of detailed production design that future Anderson films would, Rushmore’s most memorable moments stand out on their own without these visual aids.  Anderson and Wilson’s screenplay perfectly establishes Max Fischer as a complicated, three-dimensional character who is very easy to get behind, and his relationship with the unsatisfied, manipulative Herman Blume is believably absurd and humorous.  The screenplay’s pacing is perfect, running at a very brisk pace and yet still allowing for a great deal of character and situation development.  Even while Max and Herman are doing battle with one another, both characters still must contend with other conflicts like Max being expelled from school and being ashamed of his humble upbringing, and Herman being unsatisfied with his home life.  Even with a tremendous script, Rushmore would not be half the film it is without its lead performances from Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, whose comedic chemistry is undeniable. Schwartzman’s Max Fischer is just the right amount of arrogant and overly-ambitious, contrasting perfectly with Murray’s Herman Blume, a man who has been disillusioned and unsatisfied for far too long, and finds an odd sense of comfort in young people like Max.  Both characters are some of the most memorable and charming, if slightly off-kilter, of the 1990’s. Rushmore is a quirky, hilarious, and stylish comedy from Wes Anderson that is worth everybody’s time.

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