Movie Project #26: Rushmore [1998]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Rushmore [1998]

Rushmore [1998]
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Olivia Williams
Runtime: 93 minutes

I was a little worried about seeing Rushmore for the first time. I had yet to fall in love with a Wes Anderson film, aside from the animated Fantastic Mr. Fox. But it had been years since seeing any of them, and my tastes have changed drastically since. What better movie to give Anderson another shot than with his much-loved Rushmore?

Jason Schwartzman stars as the 15-year-old Max Fischer, a student of Rushmore Academy who is more interested in joining every extracurricular activity available than improving his grades. After finding an intriguing Jacques Costeau quote in a library book, Max tracks down those who have checked it out in the past and eventually finds the culprit: Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), a widowed first grade teacher. Max befriends her but quickly falls in love.

In an attempt to win her over, Max connects with a millionaire steel magnate named Herman Blume (Bill Murray). Problem is, Blume begins to fall for Miss Cross as well. The two begin a back-and-forth battle to steal the teacher’s heart, with Max in particular becoming increasingly more drastic with his actions. The love triangle quickly spirals out of control.

Rushmore [1998]

Rushmore, in a nutshell, is quirky. Everything about the movie is awkward, from Max’s non-stop pestering of Miss Cross all the way down to his hilarious take as a theater director. What high school student other than Fischer would run stage productions of Serpico and Apocalypse Now? The movie has a unique brand of humor, no doubt, and it’s one that can divide audiences. I found myself chuckling quite a bit, but your mileage may vary.

One thing that surprised me about Rushmore that I really dug was its obvious homages to The Graduate, one of my favorite films from last year’s project. From the concept of a student/young male falling in love with a much older teacher all the way down to a scene where Blume cannonballs into a pool (much like Benjamin Braddock), it’s easy to see that Wes Anderson had this 1967 classic in mind while filming this.

Rushmore [1998]

I can’t place my finger as to what made me like Rushmore so much. There was nothing in particular that made me say “hey, this is a great movie” but I really enjoyed everything it threw at me. The soundtrack, full of classic 60s tunes, is well-curated, and everything about the film is eminently likable. Even Max Fischer, who would almost certainly be an annoying little twat in real life, is somehow charming. For that, I will give credit to the always enjoyable Schwartzman. Also, you simply can’t go wrong with Bill Murray, who obviously shines in this role.

I was torn between giving Rushmore a 7 or an 8. Ultimately, I have decided on the latter simply because I had a smile on my face as the movie ended. Anderson’s offbeat humor isn’t for everyone, but I quite enjoyed it in Rushmore. I’m ready to give him a second chance, and I can’t wait to dig into the rest of his filmography.


21 thoughts on “Movie Project #26: Rushmore [1998]

  1. John says:

    I had a similar reaction between first and second viewing. I struggled the first time- though I sort of liked it- and then loved it the 2nd time. Hell, I need to give it a re-watch myself. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it.

    • Eric says:

      I actually watched Moonrise Kingdom last night (I wrote this review last week but just cleaned it up today). I really enjoyed it, perhaps even moreso than Rushmore. I plan on writing about it soon.

  2. fogsmoviereviews says:

    Glad you dug it Eric, I love this flick. It IS funny, its very funny. But I also found it loaded with themes to ruminate on when I wrote it up. Male ambition, age, success. It’s a comedy, definitely. But its that rare comedy that also has a lot to say.

    Love this flick. BIG fan.

    • Eric says:

      Haha yeah, that was great. I don’t think Rushmore would be in my list of favorites, but I definitely enjoyed the hell out of it. Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  3. maroon5gurl88 says:

    I have similar thoughts on Anderson, only loving this and Fantastic Mr. Fox. I saw Rushmore before FMF and loved it! I think it’s the almost absurd nature of the humor and story, that if this was a different genre Max would be totally disturbing (and in a few ways he is) yet Anderson generally keeps things light. I’m not a huge Bill Murray fan (shock) but I loved him in this, particularly his hatred of his sons. Glad you liked it.

    • Eric says:

      Not a huge Bill Murray fan?!? I didn’t know that was possible! 😀

      No, but I know what you mean. Max was definitely obnoxious, but Schwartzman was able to play him in a way that was surprisingly bearable. Everything just seemed to click.

    • Eric says:

      It’s worth a shot, Scott. Between this and Moonrise Kingdom, I have actually been enjoying Wes Anderson’s work a hell of a lot more than I expected.

  4. ruth says:

    This is one of the Wes Anderson movies I REALLY want to see and your review makes me want to see it more. I will try to rent this one before I see Moonrise Kingdom, or after depending how soon I’ll see his latest film.

  5. The Blog of Big Ideas says:

    Murray, Wes Anderson and overall great reviews? It seems the time has come for me to watch this.
    I also loved Fantastic Mr. Fox (probably my favorite animated film of 2009), and The Royal Tenenbaums, which I found oddly hilarious, which is to be expected from a Wes Anderson film.
    Jason Schwartzman is such an odd interesting actor. I don’t really know what makes him intriguing and appealing in certain roles, but he is one of those that deserves a little more recognition and I can see him being ideal for this kind of role.

    • Eric says:

      I couldn’t imagine anyone other than Schwartzman in this lead role. He really is an odd but interesting actor, as you said. I still need to see The Royal Tenenbaums myself, but Rushmore is a fun movie that is definitely worth seeking out. Keep an eye out for Bill Murray’s ‘awesome’ shorts in this movie. 😀

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