#28) Rushmore (1998)
OR “Go Wes, Young Man”
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Anderson & Owen Wilson
Class of 2016
Original Trailer (PS: The film’s website doesn’t work anymore)
UPDATE: This is my original write-up of “Rushmore”. Read my updated and revised version here.
The Plot: Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman, in his film debut!) is an underachieving student/overachieving everything else at Houston’s prestigious Rushmore Academy. In the fall of his sophomore year new teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) joins the faculty and Max immediately takes notice. He starts to woo her, and she emphatically, but good-naturedly, rebuffs him. Around this time Max befriends local industrialist Herman Blume (Bill Murray) who also takes a liking to Rosemary. What follows is a bizarre love-triangle, followed by the culture shock when Max is expelled from Rushmore and has to go to public school for the first time.
Why It Matters: The NFR calls the film “a cultural milestone of Gen X and millennials” and praises the film’s “heightened reality”.
But Does It Really?: He’s only done eight films, but Wes Anderson has already made his mark on American film. It’s fun to watch this, only his second film, before you could start checking off boxes on your “Wes Anderson Bingo” card (I feel that kicks in around “Life Aquatic”). What Wes Anderson gives us here is a touching, funny, stylized but somehow still real look at the men who are children, and the children who are men.
Shout Outs: Anderson and Wilson have cited such NFR entries as “The Graduate” and “Harold and Maude” as influences on “Rushmore”. Be on the lookout for quick references to Schwartzman’s uncle’s films “The Godfather” and “Apocalypse Now”.
Everybody Gets One: Wes Anderson staples Jason Schwartzman, Brian Cox and Luke Wilson, as well as Olivia Williams. Plus that’s Alexis “Rory” Bledel as one of the students at Grover Cleveland High.
Wow, That’s Dated: Hard to find, what with Wes Anderson’s slightly dated style, but eagle-eyed viewers will notice such ‘90s things as tape recorders, desktop computers that take up a whole table, and people using taxi cabs as transportation.
Take a Shot: At long last, I found a film whose title makes a good drinking game. References to Rushmore come fast and loose in the beginning, but after that things level off and you get one every 10 minutes or so. Not too often, not too sparse, just right. Enjoy responsibly.
Seriously, Oscars?: Despite being a critical darling and winning a good number of precursor awards (including two Independent Spirit Awards), “Rushmore” was completely shut out at the 1998 Oscars. Bill Murray would have to wait five years and work with another Coppola to finally get his due. Anderson and Wilson would get their first nomination with their next project, “The Royal Tenenbaums”.
- A few notes on the people who helped make “a Wes Anderson film”; cinematographer Robert Yeoman has worked on all seven of Wes’ live-action films. He earned his first Oscar nomination for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. Production designer David Wasco worked on the first three films, then moved on to many noteworthy projects, recently winning his first Oscar for “La La Land”. Costume designer Karen Patch worked on the first three films and still costumes regularly, most recently for “Pee-wee’s Big Holiday”. Composer Mark Mothersbaugh worked on the first four films and is probably best known as the lead singer of Devo and for composing this earworm.
- Do kids still do Model UN anymore?
- I’m always amazed at Bill Murray’s ability to give us his usual “Murrayisms” but still be totally within the style of a Wes Anderson film. What this performance must have looked like for people who were used to seeing Bill Murray in crap like this.
- The best line in the film; “In summation, I have only one question: Is Latin dead?”
- That’s legendary “Simpsons” writer Wally Wolodarsky as the referee when Max watches/participates in the wrestling team. Anyone know how he ended up in the film? The credits mention thanks to James L. Brooks. Connection or coincidence?
- One of my favorite things about “Rushmore” is Wes Anderson’s sense of setting. Most of this film’s dialogue could be taking place with two people sitting across a table and talking, but Wes and Owen Wilson open everything up. For example; the scene where Max pitches Herman the aquarium takes place while Herman is going through his routine inspection of his factory. And when in doubt, set your scene outdoors. Herman giving Rosemary Max’s letter takes place in an outdoor painting class, which gives us the great image of Bill Murray hiding behind a tree. A+ choices all around.
- Sneakers are an interesting choice of shoes for Max. I guess I had him pegged as a loafers guy.
- “I Am Waiting” must be the cheapest Rolling Stones track to get the rights to.
- Speaking of the soundtrack, “Oh Yoko”? Okay then…
- I do enjoy Seymour Cassel in this film as Max’s father Bert. For some reason I always thought he was French (maybe the last name) and that he just does a solid American accent. Turns out he’s from Michigan. We’ll see more of him on the Registry when I start watching John Cassavetes.
- Ah, that point in the ‘90s when we could really start to make fun of Vietnam. Good times.
- Well, Wes Anderson. Isn’t that enough?
- Bill Murray: Act II
- Owen Wilson would give up his screenwriting career to voice a talking car.
- At one point Max is reading “Diving for Sunken Treasure” by Jacques Costeau. Now don’t you get any ideas, Wes.
Further Viewing: The best Wes Anderson spoof made so far, SNL briefly dug itself out its post-Wiig, pre-2016 election slump to bring us the expertly made “The Midnight Coterie of Sinister Intruders”.