Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray
Wes Anderson makes his first appearance on my list with his 1998 film Rushmore. This is Anderson’s second feature film and the first one he did to really get promotion, thanks to a more recognizable cast and a higher-profile marketing campaign. Rushmore is a strange film, as is typical for Anderson, only, it is strange in a proper way. I will go more into Anderson’s style of filmmaking later but suffice it to say for now, if you have not seen a film by Wes Anderson, then you have not really seen anything like it.
Rushmore is the story of a super-intelligent teenager named Max Fisher (Schwartzman) who has a great deal of influence at an exclusive private academy called Rushmore. He is followed by his much younger protege who more or less acts as his secretary as he heads and organizes a bevy of time-consuming clubs. As a result of his devotion to extra-curricular activities, Max’s grades are suffering and he finds himself at odds with the headmaster, who places him on academic probation. Meanwhile, a beautiful young teacher named Ms. Cross becomes the target of Max’s affection, a crush that comes between him and his much older friend named Herman Blum (Murray), when she and Blum begin dating. The plot shifts to focus primarily on Fisher and Blum’s fight over Ms. Cross, which increases in desperation.
If the synopsis seems a little broad, that would be because it is a Wes Anderson film. Anderson’s stories are usually a series of layered plots that are intermingled with the film never focusing firmly on just one for too long. There is enough of an underlying focus for the story for there to actually be a movie, but it never becomes the center of the film, it is just there to tie together the various other subplots. Rushmore is a constant stream of sight gags and an odd awkwardness that may come off as ineptitude, until you actually watch the entire film. The strange pauses, fourth-wall-breaking montages and tone throughout the film all add up to a strange experience, but a funny one. Chances are, however, that if you do not like one Wes Anderson movie, you will probably dislike all of them, with the one exception of the more recent Moonrise Kingdom, which was an excellent movie, and a definite evolution for Anderson as a filmmaker.
Rushmore is a funny, slightly disjointed and unhinged movie about teenage awkwardness and social standing and it challenges norms of filmmaking in just about every scene. Anderson has made it part of his style to break the established “rules” of direction, and what comes of it is both a funny film, and a unique artistic idea. All of his movies have a distinct palette as well, which further add to their identity. Anderson makes a distinct sharp yellow the chromatic focus of every scene, with browns and soft greens becoming compliments. These earth-tones are then contrasted with foreground elements like Max’s bright red beret. Another interesting trademark of Anderson is how he makes certain performances stand out in scenes by have them follow slightly more subdued acting from other lead characters. This makes some more dramatic scenes seem louder than they really are, giving the illusion of a heightened series of events, without ever breaking the sardonic feel of the movie.