By: David Mejia
As Hurricane Harvey made its landing on the coast of Texas, the fortunate who had electricity throughout the duration of the storm likely tossed and turned waiting for something to do. As a new subscriber to HBO NOW, I at least had the pleasure of finding some gems in the vast selection to choose from.
I ended up coming across, Rushmore, a film by Texas native, Wes Anderson. I was originally drawn to the film because it was filmed at two schools in Houston that were down the street from where I lived. But I was pleasantly surprised by a fine piece of filmmaking.
Rushmore is about a teenager named Max who falls in love with Rosemary, a first grade teacher at his school. Along the way, Max meets Blume, the father of his two classmates, and fosters a relationship with him that quickly becomes complicated. While the story may be simple and familiar: a woman is in the middle of two men fighting for said woman’s love, Anderson provides his stylistic way of telling stories that makes this film so unique. Max spends most of his screentime with adults, and when he is with kids his age, he’s demanding and directing is plays of his own. What fascinated me was how Anderson was able to create a believable relationship between a teenager and two adults.
The relationships Max creates with Rosemary and Blume begins to collide as Blume begins to fall for Rosemary thus creating tension with Max. This is what really impressed me with the film, Max has been portrayed as mature, intelligent, and ahead of his time. As soon as Max discovers Blume’s love for Rosemary, Max begins to emulate the child that he is. He begins to make Blume’s life miserable with antics as an act of revenge. It’s this conflict that the whole film rests on, Max’s and Blume’s friendship. I perceived Blume as what Max could be. Max has a talent for directing plays and takes pride in it. One could even see him as narcissistic. Blume, on the other hand, sees Max as the child he wish he had and sees himself in Max. The two need one another to see each other’s flaws, and by the end of the film the whole reason their bickering began is no longer the concern.
This film’s strengths lie in how the story itself emulates real life so closely. Unrequited love is seen in cinema time and time again, but never explores anything deeper than the poor schmuck being depressed. Rushmore explores it using comedy to portray aspects of love, but also to display the flaws of characters. The story then evolves from one about love to one about imperfection and immaturity. We see Max as a perfectionist making sure the lines in his play are said word for word. The fact that Rosemary rejects Max for obvious reasons affects him in multiple ways to which Anderson paints as natural. Max becomes more villainous on stage as the film progresses until his last play where he begins to mellow out- this is because he has slowly begun to accept that his desire to be with Rosemary cannot happen. The plays and Max’s behavior on set act as metaphorical stages for Max where the audience can see how he is coping with it all. Instead of having Max write a play about love, or have him mourn in other contrived and cliche ways, he is seen dealing with it in a manner that is believable.
Wes Anderson creates a film that is relatable to anyone. Unrequited love is common and so is rejection. Even in 1998, Anderson’s quirky way of telling stories was stronger than ever in Rushmore. It refrains from the warm color palette that Anderson adopted later in his career but his storytelling in Rushmore is stronger than his later films. If you’re a filmmaker who wants to learn how to do comedy, watch Rushmore. If you need an introduction to Wes Anderson’s filmography, watch Rushmore. In whichever way you can view this film, do so. It’s short at a ninety minute run time and is worth paying for it on Amazon. Watch it on HBO Now/GO if you are subscribed.