Following from the success generated from his debut film Bottle Rocket, director Wes Anderson created a film that would give him a more globally recognised level of success from which his entire early career would be built. Rushmore really heightened his notoriety and helped to establish him as the unique film-maker he is today. It also represented the first film of future long-time Anderson-collaborators Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray, the latter of whom had found a niche in his later career as an independent film star.
Max Fischer (Schwartzman) is a precocious 15-year-old student at the private school Rushmore Academy. Spending almost of his time on increasingly complex extracurricular activities, notably at the expense of his actual studies, he takes a shine to widowed First Grade teacher Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams). At the same time she is wooed by Industrialist Herman Blume (Bill Murray) who himself warms to Max, sharing his feelings of loneliness and isolation from society.
As part of Anderson’s growing host of social outcast characters, Max Fischer, played with compelling arrogance by then newcomer Schwartzman, may be his most incredible. Academically terrible, he saunters through Rushmore with the bracing confidence of a man three times his age, compelling the audience to sit-up and take notice. At no point do Anderson or Schwartzman give us anything that resembles kindness, understanding or likeability in the 15-year-old, yet we cannot take our eyes of him throughout his troubled, turmoiled existence.
Anderson’s quirky direction, which can occasionally grate, is wonderfully reserved and he lets the depth of his characters and their exchanges breathe. It’s incredible to think this was only his second feature film as his camera dances from shot-to-shot with the assured confidence of his protagonist. In fact it’s difficult not to imagine Fischer behind the lens, barking his confident orders to a crew of fellow misfits.
Rushmore‘s soundtrack, a blend of anarchic British hits adds further credence to the loneliness inherent in Fischer, while the supposed ˜adults’ of the piece are perfectly underplayed by the superb Williams and the almost never-better Murray. They know when to strike for attention and, more often than not, when to sit back and allow the mad tornado of unstoppable confidence that is Fischer to steal the scene, the act and the film as a whole.
Rushmore announced director Wes Anderson’s arrival on the Hollywood scene and in many ways he’s never quite attained the giddy heights of this near perfect examination of unrequited love, adult and children relationships and the impact that one person can make on the lives of so many. Bold, original and as moving as it is awkwardly funny, Rushmore and Fischer need to be seen to be believed.