Losing My Virginity: Rushmore (1998)


[Losing My Virginity articles are reviews written by someone who still hasn’t seen an incredibly popular movie after all these years. LMV reviews are interesting in that they can offer the perspective of a person who’s untainted by the cloud of commonness that surrounded a famous film of the past, and also show how well it has stood the test of time. For more fun from Flixist’s Wes Anderson Week, head over here.]

So, when it comes to Wes Anderson, of whom we’ve devoted the past week to celebrating in anticipation for his latest film, Moonrise Kingdom, I’m no expert. Of his six films previous films (and two shorts) I’ve only seen The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Hotel Chevalier (for Natalie Portman’s butt) and a tiny, tiny bit of The Darjeeling Limited.

If you’ve read my reviews before, then you should know I’m not exactly a pretentious hipster film snob, and as such much of the requisite Wes Anderson stuff and probably even more of Bill Murray’s post-Ghostbusters work have escaped me. With Wes Anderson week, I figured it’d be a good time to remedy that, at least a little bit. I borrowed the Criterion Collection version of Rushmore from work, snuggled up with my girlfriend in my nice new queen-sized bed, and prepared to watch Bill Murray butt heads with an almost comically young Jason Schwartzman. How did it turn out? Read on as I break down my experience in losing my virginity to Anderson’s sophomore film.

Plot: For the uninitiated, Rushmore is the story of Max Fischer (Schwartzman), son of a barber and absolutely terrible student at Rushmore Academy, a ritzy private school that looks like a castle (as any good private school will, of course). He is the head, president, and/or founder of dozens of extra-curricular clubs and as such is too busy to devote his time to such silly things as keeping his grades up and as such faces expulsion if he can’t kick out the jams, as it were.

Fischer is soon taken under the wing of industrialist Herman Blume (Murray in a Golden Globe-nominated performance), a relationship that very quickly transforms into a father-son dynamic for both. Trouble arises when both fall for the same elementary school teacher (Olivia Williams) and their friendship quickly crumbles when Blume and the teacher begin an affair, launching a hilarious and ridiculous game of tit-for-tat between Fischer and Blume that drastically alters the landscape of all parties involved.

Cast:Rushmore is an important film for the two male leads, as it introduced Jason Schwartzman to the world and helped show Bill Murray as a more than just the guy from Caddyshack and What About Bob. Both have become staples in the Wes Anderson oeuvre, and both have Rushmore to thank for much of their success. But of course, it’s not just the Schwartzman and Murray show. Olivia Williams (whom many might recognize from Dollhouse) plays a great elementary school teacher and an excellent catalyst for the feud between both male leads. Luke Wilson (one of the earliest staples of Anderson’s films, having starred in Anderson’s first film, Bottle Rocket) pops up as her ‘friend’ and an early victim of Max’s barbs while his brother Owen (another staple, who also co-wrote this film with Anderson, as well as Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums) makes a teeny-tiny cameo in pictures of Williams’ dead husband.

All the students in the film are fantastic as well, and one of my favorite parts of the movie are the scenes where they perform Max’s plays. While not his most eclectic cast, Anderson definitely began to amass his regulars here and we’re all to benefit from that. Luke Wilson’s subdued, innocent everyman may well be my favorite character of the film, nigh helpless under the barrage of dickery rained upon him from a 15-year-old in a blazer.

Music: Many will agree that Anderson’s movies always have an excellent soundtrack, and this one is no different. Mark Mothersbaugh, who I’m only just now discovering was in DEVO (!!!), delivers another fantastic score, while the soundtrack is comprised of many British Invasion bands, including The Kinks (originally Anderson envisioned the whole soundtrack being songs by The Kinks), The Rolling Stones, and The Who. Another song that stuck out to me was Cat Stevens’ “Here Comes My Baby.” “Oh Yoko,” by who else but John Lennon, also appears, which feels appropriate seeing as how a woman comes between two men. It’s a solid soundtrack and serves the movie well.

Quirk: Oh my God, this movie is full of that trademark Wes Anderson quirk. It begins with a dream sequence of Fischer solving a nigh-impossible math problem while drinking from a teacup. Immediately following that scene is a montage of the bevy of extra-curriculars Fischer belongs to, with visible text informing the audience what each one is as well as his title. He got into Rushmore based on the one-act play he wrote in second grade. Herman Blume not only has a failing marriage and seems to be a crap father (an Anderson staple if there ever was one), but he’s the crap father to twins Donny and Ronny, and their names rhyme!

The crap father issue seems to bleed into the previously-mentioned father-son bond between Blume and Fischer, as well as the daddy issues Max seems to harbor to his humble barber father. Also, Bill Murray’s character wears the same suit the entire time, and just changes the shirt and tie, which are always matching colors. Lastly, as with many of his films, almost every camera shot is dead-centered on a character. It got to be a little distracting, to be quite honest. But if nothing else, it’s the beginning or a quirk-filled and consistent career for Wes Anderson and company.

Conclusion: I liked Rushmore a lot. It was funny, well-cast, and damn well acted. Schwartzman begins his acting career with gusto, and really captured the character of Max Fischer, a flawed young man who has more potential than he knows what to do with who learns more than a couple life lessons over the course of the several months the film takes place over. Bill Murray begins his transformation into a more serious actor without abandoning his comedy roots and went on to make films like Lost in Translation after this, as well as every other Wes Anderson movie to date. To be fair, he also made movies like Garfield, but hey, at least he’s not Ice Cube or Robert Deniro. Anderson displays an incredible talent for writing quirky but relatable characters as well as blending subtle humor with big laughs. If you haven’t seen Rushmore, do yourselves a favor and track down a copy. It’s pretty damn good.