While Rushmore was not Wes Anderson’s first film (Bottle Rocket) or the movie that made him a household name (The Royal Tenenbaums), this was undoubtedly his breakthrough work. More than a few times, I have read about someone’s experiences with Anderson’s movies which started with something like ‘After I saw Rushmore, he was immediately one of my favorite directors.’ At its release in 1998, the film seemed to take most everyone by surprise. No one expected such a refreshing, confident work from the director of Bottle Rocket, which now seems to be the real oddball in Anderson’s filmography.
Rushmore documents the story of Max Fischer, a 15-year-old student at the Rushmore Academy prep school. While the movie’s protagonist is Max, I wonder if the audience is presented with an semi-autobiographical picture about a young Wes Anderson. Was this what the director was like in high school? Even if not, there are a few similarities between the two that are worth noting: First, both attended a prep school. Both became popular in their school for writing and directing ambitious school plays. Furthermore, it was not uncommon for either to stir up trouble on campus. Even if Rushmore‘s tale is purely fictional, it is impossible that Anderson could not have been thinking about his teen years when he filmed it. After all, the movie was shot largely at his former high school, St. John’s School in Houston, Texas.
I have managed thus far to avoid telling you what I actually thought of Rushmore, but every review needs to include the opinion of the writer, whether professional or personal. So here it is: I thought Rushmore was, at its very best, a good movie. Despite being stylistically sound, like The Life Aquatic, the film was a difficult movie for me to become emotionally involved in. To a lesser degree than Anderson’s Zissou, I felt disconnected from a lot of the feelings of the movie’s major characters. Yet still like Zissou, I am glad I saw this and would recommend it to the director’s followers. Rushmore was a pivotal release in Anderson’s career and it is certainly fun seeing certain elements of his distinct style take shape.