Most of the other reviews you probably have seen for this movie take some sub-plot line and try to pass it off as the main story line of the movie – hell, even the preview does that. It’s hard to get a sense of the film based on its own publicity or all the rumors of Academy Award nominations for Bill Murray. True to form, I will not explode the plot for you, Gentle Readers, but I will say it’s the story of a strangely adult, yet sweetly naive kid who must live his own way and follow his heart no matter what the consequence. That doesn’t even sound right. But it is really fascinating. Brought to you by the same people who brought you the tiresome and overrated Bottle Rocket, Rushmore is a unique, funny, interesting movie that (dare I say it) may even defy genre.
Max Fischer (Jonathan Schwartzman) is an overachiever in life but his energies are not directed in a way the private school establishment of Rushmore would prefer. Schwartzman is *this close* to being handsome – like the girl in Welcome to the Dollhouse, like every ugly duckling movie before they take off their glasses – he’s just appealing enough visually to capture that superficial Hollywood-trained part of your heart so no matter what he does, you have to be on his side. It doesn’t hurt that Schwartzman is a terribly good actor and really pulls off the interesting character of Max with maturity and style.
Reviewers have been going bonkers over Bill Murray, and without disagreeing with any of them, I have to say that I don’t think the Oscar will go to poor workhorse Bill for a few reasons, none of which are even good ones, necessarily. Murray is and always has been a strong character actor with a sense of pathos and layers even in the silliest of roles. He is the ’82 Honda Civic of working film comedians. Hit a dumpster 7 times with that puppy and it will look like crap but keep running. The role Murray has in this film, a millionaire donor to Rushmore, is very interesting and completely inhabited by himself. The thing is, it’s tailor made to Murray (perhaps only by luck), and oft times people don’t appreciate a performance that comes for an actor as naturally – that sort of beaten, sad sap guy who also does a lot of thinking. I think he was great, but I also credit some of his greatness (which is always there – re-rent Groundhog Day if you don’t believe me) to the good writing and charismatic casting.
Rushmore is wacky. It’s full of weird, kooky goings-on and stuff you just can’t believe could ever happen, yet somehow feels very natural and possible, for the most part. It targets the pubescent bravado and the genuine worldliness that kids can surprise adults with, and it also captures a different brand of eccentricity pretty dead-on. Several times already people have asked me in person what I think of Rushmore – some were not drawn in by the preview at all, and others have been waiting and waiting for it to finally open wide. I have said, based on who’s asking, that I think it’s good, but then I quantify it with whether I think they will like it or not. Art house people will love it, but it’s not an art-house movie. It’s too slick to be condemned as arty. Hollywood slaves will like it, but wish that some things turned out differently, or that the pacing were more frantic. John Q. Public in Anytown, USA will think it’s weird and comment on how glad they are they don’t have any young men like that in their town. Me, I liked it. Excusing some of the obnoxious “oh my god they’re really letting us make a movie” camera work and histrionics, I have to say that it is a darn enjoyable film. But it is really hard to describe. Just go see it.
MPAA Rating R for language and brief nudity.
Release date 2/5/99
Time in minutes 90
Director Wes Anderson
Studio Touchstone Pictures