Greg and Zanna revisit what may or may not be the greatest film in history.
Sense of connection (with film): 5
Sense of connection (with spouse): 1
Rushmore has been so close to my heart for so long that last week, when I heard it was finally available to stream, I was terrified. I had been deeply and profoundly affected when I first saw it, one lonely weekend 15 years ago, after which I almost immediately entered into a crippling depression. I don't blame Rushmore for that, but it would be weird if it hadn't played some part, because I understood it immediately to have been a masterpiece, a creation that held all humanity in its hand, allowing me to see and love the world in ways I had never imagined. In that moment I understood something about how life could be lived, which I hadn't before, which was partly about the lives of the characters and partly about the creation of which they were a part. In other words, I was inspired. I thought: "This is possible?" It was the same thought I had several years later, watching for the first time the music video for Sia's Chandelier.
I worried that I wouldn't like Rushmore any more, specifically because it was the first Wes Anderson film I'd ever seen and, because I've since seen so many others and their aesthetic is now so familiar, I thought maybe what once had felt like freshness would now feel like contrivance - that its effect on me was the result of affectation.
There was no one moment where I realised I was wrong, but rather there was a steady accrual of moments, starting with the opening scene in which Bill Murray delivers an incredible speech to the students of Rushmore Academy. By the time, much later in the film, when 15-year-old Jason Schwartzman asks Murray how he's doing and Murray, with two unlit cigarettes in his mouth, says, impassively, "Mmmm, I'm a little bit lonely these days", I realised not only that the movie was a masterpiece but that there may never again be a film that understands me so well.
The movie is washed over with melancholy and disappointment at the inability of life to deliver what we believe it promises us. It's the funniest sad movie I've seen. It teaches us how little space there is between those emotions, and how much power there is in the acknowledgement of that fact.
Afterwards, I told Zanna about the deepening of my feelings toward the film. She didn't respond. It was 10.30pm, the night before Casper's fourth birthday, and she was making the icing for his cake. I said, "I take it you didn't like it." She said something brief and non-committal. I went on, more or less repeating the things I'd just said, using slightly different words, hoping to engage her, to connect with her, to convince her she was as moved by the movie as I was, but I could see she wasn't.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
The viewing experience of Greg's all-time favourite film, which, until this week I had thought was Lost in Translation, was less than ideal. While he likes to treat this column as a place to air his own esoteric musings on life and marriage, with occasional reference to the film, I take my role as reviewer much more seriously and like to give my full attention to a film. Sometimes, though, life gets in the way, and this week our baby was turning 4 and there were preparations to be made, which is a long-winded way of saying I was wrapping presents while we watched Rushmore and couldn't give it the attention a film of this nature requires.
The thing with Wes Anderson films is that the joy is in the details: the meticulous production design, the absurd visual gags, the quirky line readings. The worlds Anderson creates reward the viewer who pays attention to the minutiae in each scene, not the viewer who is making a birthday crown out of found objects from their kids' toy box.
This isn't the first time I've seen Rushmore, but since the last time, I've had three kids and given each of them a good half of my memory so it might as well have been. There was a lot of pressure from Greg for me to enjoy it. He had made it clear that if this film didn't move me down to my very core, it would signify that we were somehow disconnected, living in different realities, no longer compatible. To him, it would represent a gaping chasm between our souls: they would no longer be mates; at best they would be casual plus.
Thankfully, I liked Rushmore. It's endearingly odd and even though Bill Murray plays a variation of the same character in everything he's in, that character is so funny that I'm happy to see him play to type over and over again. There was one thing that bothered me though. The lead female character, Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), is a grieving widow and the object of affection for two men: Max (Jason Schwartzman) and Herman Blume (Murray). It irked me that she was put upon by these two men, having to delicately handle their fragile emotional health while they had very little regard for hers.
This irritation may have contributed to my inability to engage with Greg when at around 11pm, after the movie had finished, as I began late-night birthday cake decorating, he wanted to chat about the film. I knew I held in my hands both his fragile emotional health and that of my soon-to-be 4-year-old son, who had high expectations for this cake. Miss Cross and I can't be responsible for everybody's happiness.
Rushmore is now available to stream on Disney+.