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PICKIN' ON FILM: Dark comedy ode to days gone by

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Continuing in the vein of my fast few articles about my Top 5 favorite films, I’ll now turn to Wes Anderson’s 1998 film, “Rushmore.”

The film follows the life of Max Fisher (played by Jason Schwartzman), who attends the elite Rushmore Academy as a scholarship student. While Max has an incredible talent for the school’s extracurricular activities, he’s also one of the worst academic students on campus.

He was admitted to the school when he was 14 years old after writing a play about the Watergate scandal.

During one of the school’s assemblies he hears a speech given by Herman Blume, a multimillionaire industrial magnate played by Bill Murray. Blume, a self-made man, challenges the poor students at the school to “Take dead aim on the rich kids. Get them in the crosshairs and take them out.”

Max is invigorated by the speech and introduces himself to Blume after the assembly. While he is fascinated by Blume’s success, the industrialist is impressed by Max’s tenacious attitude.

One day, Max meets Rosemary Cross, a new teacher at the school, and immediately falls for her. When Rushmore decides to eliminate Latin from its curriculum, something that Cross finds to be a shame, Max uses his skills to make a case for the language and ends up making it a required class for all students.

Meanwhile, in an effort to gain Cross’ love, Max uses help and $8 million from Blume to design a professional aquarium. When he holds a groundbreaking for the building, he is finally kicked off campus and sent to public school.

Eventually, Cross realizes Max’s affections for her and she rebuffs him, only to be approached by Blume. The two begin an affair, unbeknownst to Max, until his chapel partner informs him of their relationship. Max betrays Blume to his wife, who divorces him. The two then begin a war that leads to Max cutting the breaks on Blume’s Bentley, which gets him arrested.

I’ll leave the rest for you to find out.

The film was co-written by Anderson and Owen Wilson, who both attended St. John’s School in Houston, where the scenes of “Rushmore” were filmed. Interestingly enough, both were kicked out.

Owen Wilson’s brother Luke Wilson was the only member of his family’s four boys to graduate from the school. In addition, the speech given by Blume at the beginning was based on a speech once given by their father, Robert Wilson.

After reading the script, Murray said he wanted to be in the movie so badly that he would work for free but eventually was paid scale.

In addition, he personally helped haul equipment, and when the studio refused to grant Anderson a helicopter scene that was going to cost too much, Murray gave the director a blank check to cover the costs.

He was paid back in spades. The film gave his career a boost that led to him being renowned for appearing in independent pictures.

There are many amazing qualities of this film.

The dialogue is intense and feature’s Anderson’s talent of being able to derive comedic lines based on very simple conversations. Some people don’t enjoy this quality because it tends to focus less on one-liners or slapstick forms of comedy, but I’m not one of those people. While the payoff for these conversations is a less over the top than something like that of Will Ferrell, I think they are fascinating.

Another thing I love about Anderson’s films is that he takes vignettes and situations from famous Hollywood films and puts them in his own.

For instance, at one point Max meets a female student and asks her to take her glasses off and tells her she looks better that way. This was featured in “Rocky,” directed by John Avildsen. Max writes a play reminiscent of “Apocalypse Now” and at one point asks if he can stay at Rushmore “For old times’ sake,” a statement made in “The Godfather.” Schwartzman’s uncle Francis Ford Coppola directed the films, two of which featured Talia Shire, Schwartzman’s mother.

Anderson cited “Chinatown,” “Harold and Maude” and “The Graduate” as part of his inspiration for the film.

If you are a fan of Anderson’s other films, like “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Bottle Rocket,” or the newer “Moonrise Kingdom,” you’ll love “Rushmore.” It is a beautifully shot film with an incredible soundtrack, and it’s one of the funniest dark comedies you’ll see in a while.
Tagged under  John Bragg III, Media History, Pickin on Film, Rushmore, Voices

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