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Still saving Latin. And I still have to ask: what did you ever do?

  • Sep 16, 2012
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

For the longest time after seeing it for the first time, I loved Wes Anderson's "Rushmore" without knowing what made it so special to me, when compared to say, the rest of his films that followed (and the one that preceded it, "Bottle Rocket"). I absolutely adored the film for its whacky sense of humor, quirky and flawed characters, and elaborate visual style; and it snuck its way, somehow, into my Top Ten list (if there ever was one). Until now, I haven't been able to put my finger on why I adored this film so much. What set it apart from the rest of Anderson's fantastically off-color tragicomedies? Today (September 4, 2012) I watched it for the first time in over a year. When it was over, I started to understand a lot about myself and why the film had hit so close to home for so long without me even knowing it.

I think it has to do with some recent changes I've been going through. Before I get into those, I'll do my best to describe the simple yet charming story of the movie. The title refers to the fictional Rushmore Academy, where the film's protagonist, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), attends school. Max is a sharply dressed young man who carries himself...interestingly. But however appealing his looks may be, the fact of the matter is that Max is not a very good student; instead making time for extra curriculum activities that would easily overshadow his school-work any day. He is threatened with expulsion by the headmaster of the academy, Mr. Guggenheim (Brian Cox).

Up until now, Max has simply been getting by. Few things have intruded on his life. One day he meets Herman Bloom (Bill Murray); a wealthy industrialist with two kids who also attend the academy and comes to speak at the school one day, and the two come to admire one-another. You get the feeling that maybe Herman envies Max (as he says, he is a "sharp little guy" and "seems to have it pretty figured out", if you recall), given that his life and marriage are on the rocks and he's lost. Their relationship is threatened when Max happens upon an elementary school teacher who has just started teaching on the Academy grounds; a Mrs. Cross (Olivia Williams).

It's clear from the moment he sets eyes upon her that Max will come to be infatuated with Mrs. Cross; but we also know that she is too morally decent to sleep with a kid who is at least twice her age (he's fifteen). She is more likely to end up with Bloom; and when the three start doing stuff together, she sort of does; although we get the sense that it's a pretty empty and almost strictly sexual relationship, which is enough to disturb Max. He acts out in bizarre ways and eventually gets himself expelled from the Academy and placed in a public school - where he meets a pretty girl named Margaret Yang (Sara Tanaka) who seems to like him.

One thing I've always known for sure is that there's a little bit of Max in all of us. I certainly see a lot of him in me. I've never been the academic achiever that is my sister, which sort of makes me the dark horse of our family, I guess. My grades are competent, and at this rate I'll do fine (unlike Fischer), but I've always felt that it's more important to devote your time to the things you like over the things you are forced to accept. In my case, movies, music, and art in general. Those are the things that speak a similar language to the one that I do. I have my speculations about Max; maybe he has Asperger's Syndrome (which I have been diagnosed with). In his case, there is no diagnosis and there has been no confirmation but he shares a lot of the common Aspie traits. He lives in his own little world and does his own little things. And like him, I am also more attracted to older women because I feel they are worth more in intelligence and often times even in beauty. Women my own age tend to not be women at all; and more-so just girls, which I find boring.

This is quite possibly the best film I've seen that attempts to present - albeit maybe unintentionally - the "Aspie State of Mind", if you will. The attitude of the film, from the outstanding soundtrack composed of mostly artists from the 60's (think Donovan, The Kinks, and the Rolling Stones, as well as original music by Mark Mothersbaugh) to the off-kilter humor and performances from the stellar cast (this is my favorite Schwartzman character), reflects what I live with every day. A little bit of the extreme, a little bit of the intellectual, a little bit of the absurd, and a little bit of the surreal. In this way, I made a very strong connection with this film; a connection that I never had or knew was possible to have. Not only does it contain some of the funniest scenes I've seen - who can forget the dinner scene, oh God - but it also ends on a note that is so emotionally resonant that it left my head spinning. Films this good should not be possible.

But of course, Anderson's style is not for everyone. The screenplay by Anderson and writing partner Owen Wilson is clever and quirky without seeming needy, but the best jokes are mostly human and awkward and even uncomfortable, thus they will go over some people's heads. It's a love it or hate it film, and I find that's the same with most of Anderson's films. But it means more to me than most films could ever hope to. Anderson's worlds are colorful in both character and in rich emotion. While most writers and directors want to be loved for being different, Anderson has invested himself in these worlds and these characters, and so have I. This film is beautiful, and I'm always happy to return to the Academy once in a while; even more-so now that I have an even deeper reason and purpose for doing so.

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More Rushmore reviews
review by . January 10, 2009
Rushmore
In simple terms. Max Fischer (played by Jason Schwartzman) is one of my favorite characters, from any film, ever. Accompanied on screen by Bill Murray (Herman Blume) and directed by Wes Anderson, Max is the epitome of quirky cool.    More than anything, this Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson scribed comedy is about the dysfunctional relationship between the oddly ambitious and overly involved high school student, Max and the dryly depressed businessman, Herman. In a fun way, the film …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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