Review: Rushmore (Anderson, 1998)

Still from the movie Rushmore

Last weekend my husband was gone for a bachelor party, and I had grand plans to watch a clutch of movies I was pretty sure he’d already seen or wasn’t interested in to begin with. But it turns out that weekend days are just like weekdays–the time gets away from you–and I only got the chance to see one: Rushmore.

This picture was made 14 years prior to the Anderson film I recently reviewed, Moonrise Kingdom. It’s interesting to see what elements of his style have persisted over this span and what parts have evolved. He still does that humorously slow and deliberate panning in the introduction, but this early work is a little less dreamy than the subsequent ones I’ve seen. And less sophisticated, but still as quirky as ever. Anderson movies seem to be perpetually from a child’s perspective–a child peering into an adult world with a sort of perplexed clarity and a denial, a refusal to understand. Penetrating but nonetheless innocent. Despite their R ratings, you know his films will never venture out of their odd, pastel worlds. The adults are all fondly tolerant. Except for Bill Murray. He is the only adult that consistently appears to be a part of the child’s world, an active participant, an adult child himself, and yet with the sad, cynical wisdom of the grownup. The remembrance of hope and the knowledge of defeat: that is the constant, persistent pathos of the Bill Murray characters.

And, mon Dieu, but does Jason Schwartzman look young–a bonafide teenager with braces, chubby cheeks, and everything. You can’t tell it’s his first role; from the start, he fits right in to the Anderson sensibility. (For some light history about the film and Schwartzman’s involvement, visit Fogs’ Movie Reviews’ take.)

I liked Rushmore, as I expected to, but I was perhaps not as charmed as I have been by Anderson’s later films (though, understand, I was still charmed!). Maybe it felt a little less self-aware. Or simply not quirky enough (is that possible?). Still, if it had been my first introduction to Wes Anderson, I would have been hooked.

Note: I know I keep saying “Anderson movies,” completely neglecting the fact that Owen Wilson is a frequent collaborator on these films. Wilson co-wrote Rushmore as well as The Royal Tenenbaums and Bottle Rocket.

Also, a mildly humorous Harry Potter parody trailer in Rushmore style: