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"Rushmore" Review

One problem with reviewing those films *everyone* considers to be a "classic" is that if you don't see what everyone else is praising you have to decide whether you're going to be that guy who "doesn't get it" (presumably because stupid) or you're the brave iconoclast whom many will probably disregard in the future because, "He's that stupid guy who doesn't get great movies." So with that clarified, I don't get what the big deal is about Wes Anderson's 1998 film Rushmore.

Jason Schwartzman made his acting debut - not just big-screen, but any screen as you can hear about in this interview or the Wikipedia entry on casting - as Max Fischer, a 15-year-old simultaneous over and underachiever at the private Rushmore Academy. He's the president or founder or captain of a slew of extracurricular activities and clubs while getting such poor marks he's on the verge of being tossed out of school. Why the poor grades? Because all the other stuff he's doing.

He's also smitten with a new teacher, a young widow played by Olivia Williams. She gets increasingly creeped out by Max's affections and shoos him along. When Max tries to impress her with the help of an alumni millionaire (Bill Murray) he gets booted from Rushmore and leaves Murray a clear shot at wooing the widow himself. When word gets back to Max, a nasty little Spy vs. Spy war of vandalism ensues.

While I don't have an axe to grind against Anderson's films, I've never quite seen what the film nerds worship so fervently about him. I liked The Royal Tennenbaums and Fantastic Mr. Fox, I wanted to punch Moonrise Kingdom to death with its excessively cutesy smug whimsy. While Rushmore has a pile of bits that are individually good, the whole is much less than the sum of the bits. I'm writing this less than 24 hours after watching it and had to look up a synopsis to remind myself of several plot details.

It doesn't help that Williams, while adequately attractive, doesn't really offer much to support the thesis that kids and millionaires will do anything to be with her. This movie supposedly helped Bill Murray cross over into "serious acting" (read: Wes Anderson movies and Lost In Translation because he made a TON of crap, too, like TWO Garfield joints), but I didn't find much particularly interesting and too many Murrayisms. Schwartzman, though, is top notch and even if Anderson and Murray provided him with extensive coaching, he's quite up to the task of hauling Anderson's whimsical construct on his back.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.


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