Independent Pick: Rushmore (1998)
The thing about Wes Anderson is that his films are beautiful, without exception – wonderfully shot, and exquisitely written. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about them that makes them so enjoyable, though, since they are all deeply unusual. This actually says more about modern filmmaking than it does Anderson, to be fair, because I suspect what makes his films feel different is the universal lack of a standard crescendo. Most films follow the three-act narrative rule, building to an inevitable dramatic peak, before reaching a resolution. Wes Anderson films don’t peak so much as unfold rhythmically until the conclusion. It’s almost more naturalistic that way, since the ‘peak’ is a purely dramatic device we rarely see in our day-to-day lives.
Rushmore – directed by Anderson and written by both him and Owen Wilson – unfolds rhythmically, too, aided by stellar performances from Jason Schwartzman (in an impressive debut), Bill Murray and Olivia Williams. Schwartzman plays Max Fischer, an eccentric 15-year-old focused almost entirely on extra-curricular activities at his private High School, Rushmore Academy – where he enjoys a scholarship. Bill Murray plays Herman Blume, a successful but weary businessman, and one of Rushmore’s most generous benefactors. Blume develops an admiration for Fischer’s idealistic nature, and both develop a deep affection for widowed first grade teacher Rosemary Cross – played by Olivia Williams.
With Brian Cox and Luke Wilson lending able support, the story of Rushmore winds its way through expulsion, rejection, revenge and redemption, with Fischer discovering an admirer of his own, and Blume discovering a new lease of life. The film is warm, funny and curious, and – as Anderson’s second feature length film – is as great an introduction as any to his work, for those unfamiliar.