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March 14, 2005

Rushmore

1998.USA.Anderson

3.0 / 4.0

Despite the flack that Wes Anderson frequently gets from unbelievers like me, at least he makes uniquely interesting films that bare the signature of their creator in nearly every respect. From common themes and motifs to a constant, quirky style, Anderson’s works make up a body of work that makes it possible and inviting to explore its components individually and as a group.

Unfortunately, Anderson hasn’t developed in the same way as other auteurs. His newest films aren’t his best, and his richest is still his sophomore effort Rushmore. Instead of building on, or even innovating, the style and content of that film, he has aped himself in The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The colourful cinematography and specific use of music in those films comes back to Rushmore, as does the Jacques Cousteau fascination that propels Life Aquatic and the relationship between father and sons that is key in Tenenbaums (and in Life Aquatic according to some).

Rushmore is the entire curve of Anderson’s career (so far), and each successive film merely a tangent.

By itself, the film stands as an entertaining, witty creation that has endeared itself to many film fans and critics. And while it has certainly outlived other comedies of 1998, such as Bulworth and Primary Colours, its reputation is overstated. Neither terribly affecting or poignant as a film aboutfirst love, friendship or growing old, or sharp enough to qualify as effective satire (like Alexander Payne’s 1999 Election), Rushmore is an odd nut to slice. Like its main character Max Fischer, the film is good at the extra curricular but falters at the basics. Max, for example, is a completely rounded character, with faults and virtues that make him at times despicable and at other times extremely loveable, and yet his relationship with Margaret is as unexplored as his relationship with Rosemary unresolved. His character is somewhat wasted as a result.

Anderson fills Rushmore with great moments that he can’t fashion into a great film. Luckily, the great characters and deadpan dialogue hold the better bits together, and the plot deals with enough serious material (Death, suicide, rape, Vietnam) to add just enough weight to balance the whimsy. Still, Rushmore is no masterpiece. It’s good and it may speak to people, but it’s also fuzzy and trivial.

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