Rushmore (1998) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated: R for language and brief nudity
Running Time: 93 min.
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Seymour Cassel, Brian Cox
Director: Wes Anderson
Screenplay: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Review published June 11, 1999
A 15-year-old student (Schwartzman, Spun) at a preppy private school is a gifted young man but gets lousy grades, as he has decided to become involved in every club and activity you can imagine. A rich factory owner (Murray, Wild Things) takes a liking to the boy and they become friends, but the relationship becomes strained when they both fall in love with one of the teachers at Rushmore (Williams, The Postman). Soon the boy gets a probationary expulsion from Rushmore due to a crazy plan to build an aquarium on campus and is sent to a rough public school, where it isn't as easy to maintain all his extracurricular activities. He also plots revenge on his factory owner "friend" who seemingly steals the object of his affection from right under his nose.
This is an extremely quirky little comedy/drama, which has a few funny moments (mostly supplied by the excellent Murray), but maintains a superficial storyline and meanders in zany antics without any direction. You'll either love this film or be perplexed for the duration, as some critics have hailed it as the best film of 1998. I found the film to be a near-miss due to becoming lost amid its own attempts to be clever.
The film is meant to be funny but seldom evokes any laughs. It is intended to be a drama but rarely has a genuinely compelling moment. It delves into romance but the characters are painted so one-dimensionally that you wonder how anyone could like them, much less love them.
It's certainly refreshing to know that there are filmmakers like Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket, The Life Aquatic) who tries his best to make an original film but it seems like he tried a little to hard to do too much and lost focus of his vision during the production. Fans of offbeat films should find lots to like here, but others will find it uneven and ultimately a frustration.
©1999 Vince Leo