Rushmore 1998 ★★★★½

I’ve had an interesting relationship with Wes Anderson over the years. When I was 16 and first discovered his films (at that time he had made his first four), I fell in love with them. The distinctness, the soundtracks, the surprising emotional power of Royal Tenenbaums in particular, it all really won me over. Then, as I grew older and reflected upon them, I began to lose my love for him. I came around to being more frustrated with him refusing to break out from his particular style and do new things. I still respected the fact that this is a guy who basically created his own unique genre, somewhere in between the wit of Woody Allen and the freedom/style of Jean-Luc Godard, but I constantly found myself wishing that he would do more.

As several more of his films came out all within the same rhythm, I began to consider myself no longer a fan of his. A year ago I tried watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and couldn’t even finish the film because I was so bored. Watching it, I thought that maybe I had just grown out of Wes and if I had tried watching any of his films I would feel that same level of frustrated boredom. When Moonrise Kingdom was announced and marketing for it began, I was struggling to find any particular reason for me to care. This is where I was at in regards to Anderson about two weeks ago. The other day I was listening to the soundtrack for The Royal Tenenbaums, which I’ve owned since I first watched it, and found myself wanting to try and relive that love I had for him in my younger days that I had lost. I went out and purchased a few of his films (I used to own them all but sold them years ago figuring I wouldn’t want to watch them again) and today I watched Rushmore.

I don’t know if I’ve come back around to loving him or if for whatever reason I just have a strong dislike for Life Aquatic by itself, but almost immediately upon starting Rushmore I found myself back in love. By the end of it, I was incredibly frustrated with the fact that I let myself stop loving him in the first place. Maybe it was my own personal taste expanding and coming back around, or maybe I just needed some time away from that unique Wes Anderson world in order to truly appreciate it again, but it seems I’ve come full circle back into loving at least this particular film. It was strange being pulled back into my love for it, but it was impossible to resist. It really beats with it’s own rhythm and even in Anderson’s self-created genre it stands out as a unique work, blending his impressive wit (that never manages to get too far into the intellectualism that I think he can sometimes be guilty of) with genuinely rounded characters and an emotional coming-of-age story.

In the hands of most writer/directors a character like Max Fischer could have been miserable to watch and no one would have possibly been able to root for him, but somehow Anderson, with the help of Jason Schwartzman in his remarkable acting debut, is able to make Fischer interesting, hilarious and surprisingly relatable. I felt like that was part of the film that I tapped into that I wasn’t able to process the first time that I had seen it so many years ago, how much it was able to speak to me on a personal level. Max is so lost in this world, trying to fit in everywhere because he fits in nowhere. He’s a boy pretending to be a man, and it’s something that I found myself able to relate to in a surprising amount of ways, although of course I’d like to think that my ego is nowhere near his level. Bill Murray provides impeccable support, a natural for Anderson’s particular brand of humor as everyone knows, with one of the more dryly uproarious performances put on screen in the past few decades. Olivia Williams also impresses considerably, providing the emotional backbone and easily understandable love interest for which the romantic rivalry between Fischer and Murray’s Herman Blume hinges on.

It’s a remarkably well-paced film, never slowing down for a second in it’s brisk 90-minute running time, but never seeming as though it goes by too fast either. I’m very pleased that I gave this another shot, because I think it’s about as close as you can get to making a perfect film. Anderson’s Rushmore is unique, inventive, intelligent and wickedly humorous. It’s made me very excited to revisit his other films, and to see Fantastic Mr. Fox for the first time.

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