Friday, September 21, 2012


Rushmore (1998)
Comedy, Drama, 93 minutes
Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Olivia Williams

Comedy is so subjective. Some people want American Pie, The Hangover, or the latest Eddie Murphy movie, while others prefer gentle indie comedies such as Little Miss Sunshine.

What makes you laugh?

I often think about my own sense of humor and it's difficult to pin down at times. I tend to avoid cheap laughs or things done for shock value, and I admire intelligent dialogue and quirky or original takes on everyday situations. One director who never fails to make me smile is Wes Anderson. He definitely falls into the quirky category, but there is so much more to his movies than that.

Rushmore is Anderson's second movie, coming two years after his debut, Bottle Rocket. Both movies were written with Owen Wilson, and they have a similar feel. Anderson is one of those directors who appears to make movies about nothing and it's easy to sit there wondering what you just watched. But, unlike many comedies, there are deeper themes present. I usually find myself thinking about Anderson's work several days after I see the movie. That's the case this time, and it's the main reason I am writing this review.

Rushmore stars Jason Schwartzman in his first role. He plays Max Fischer, who is a 15-year-old student at Rushmore, a private school. He's there because he wrote a play in second grade and won a scholarship. Most of the students have rich parents, but Max's father is a barber and Max has to lie and claim that he's the son of a brain surgeon in order to gain acceptance.

Max is struggling at school and is informed that he'll be expelled if he flunks another class. His main problem is not one of intelligence, it's his lack of focus. He takes on so many extracurricular activities that he doesn't have time to work on his grades. We see snippets of Max indulging in each of these activities, such as beekeeping and fencing, and these snapshots give the movie a lot of charm. It reminds me of Amelie and some of Jeunet's other work in that regard.

As usual, something feels odd in Anderson's world. This effect is heightened by the dialogue. For example, Max sounds as if he is much older. He talks so seriously and it's funny that someone of that age thinks the way he does. Watch him direct Serpico for the school play and you'll see just what I mean.

The heart of the story involves an unusual love triangle. Max befriends Herman Blume (Murray), who is a wealthy tycoon and former student of Rushmore. They both develop feelings for Miss Cross (Williams), who teaches at the school.

I won't reveal any more of the plot, because it doesn't really matter. All you need to know is that Rushmore is a typical Wes Anderson film. He'll surprise you at times, make you laugh, and leave you wondering how he came up with such original ideas.

I should also mention Mark Mothersbaugh, who began his association with Anderson on this film by contributing to the soundtrack. Other music used in the film includes songs by The Kinks, The Who, The Faces, and John Lennon. They all add to the nostalgic tone and fit perfectly.

Owen Wilson doesn't appear in this one, but Luke and Andrew Wilson are both involved. If you appreciate quirky comedy, Rushmore won't disappoint.

The Criterion Blu-ray offers a superb presentation. Colors are natural throughout and you'll feel as if you are standing next to the characters. The special features are also noteworthy and the highlight is a 55-minute feature showing interviews with Murray and Anderson on the Charlie Rose Show. Fans of commentaries will be happy that Anderson, Owen Wilson and Schwartzman appear on the commentary track.

If you are curious about the appeal of Wes Anderson, Rushmore isn't a bad starting point. It won't work for everyone though.

Overall score 4.5/5

Return to index of every review on the site.


  1. I love Anderson but this didn't work for me at all.

  2. It's strange how opinions can differ so much. I would say Life Aquatic is the weakest Anderson film, but I would want to own even his worst effort.