When I first saw Rushmore, alone at the Franklin Mall AMC Cinema 6, it was both an effort to ditch my Friday afternoon Intro to Philosophy class and a need to see what the “Bottle Rocket Guys’ would do next. I enjoyed Bottle Rocket, but had sort of dismissed it as a kind of offbeat, quirky comedy that when mentioned at social gatherings usually got me a lot of blank stares. (See: Flirting with Disaster, Clerks, Living in Oblivion, Swingers, Barcelona) I was new to this whole idea of movies that no one had heard of– the ones not starring Jim Carrey, Adam Sadler, or Tom Cruise– having any sort of value.
But, Rushmore had Bill Murray, right? I remember thinking this was a coup. Bill Murray was a major movie star, and here he was in this weird little movie about an over-extracurricular kid at a private school in Texas. And he was good! Wes Anderson figured out that he could have this big comedic talent and put him in this extremely low-key role and make it work; something that continues to be a Wes Anderson signature.
As the downtrodden, chain-smoking, depression case, Herman Blume, Bill Murray may have changed the course of his career. Clearly a mutual trust was established between Murray and Anderson, as they continue to collaborate. Blume, paired with the dynamic personality of Max Fischer, eventually finds his way towards contentment. It’s a slow and subtle change that takes over through his mentorship turned rivalry turned friendship with Max. This is the ultimate payoff of Rushmore; Blume’s look of understanding when he meets Bert Fischer, the barber (not the neurosurgeon Max had billed him as).
I remember telling people afterwards that Rushmore restored my faith in modern motion pictures. That seems like a bit of an overstatement. I guess, perhaps, I was a harboring a little residual bitterness from Titanic winning the Oscar over LA Confidential. Maybe it drew me back in though. The movie spoke to me. It spoke to me to the tune of five more theatrically viewings. After the fifth, at the two dollar super cinemas, a friend told me, “You know, you never stopped grinning during that movie.” I’m not sure I’ve ever stopped grinning during a viewing of Rushmore.