Rushmore made me feel uncomfortable. It wasn’t the story nor the characters, but the overbearing perfection in the wake of imperfection. The film bears the rigidity, and artificiality of a play. Rushmore is filled with all sorts of *little quirks in the production and cinematography. The most prominent being Wes Anderson’s obsession with symmetry. He throws away all the natural satisfaction of the rule of thirds and replaces it with an artificial split down the middle of the picture. Those four crossroads are a sharp contrast to the bullseye of the middle, which, like an actor’s stage lit monologue, is an overbearing place of power.
With this perfection comes surreal discomfort. You see it especially in character profiles in Rushmore. The near artificial symmetry of their features creates an intangible, doll-like perfection. Once their placed in the middle, the characters beg to channel that centremost power. An example of this is when Max visits the barber shop. They pop, begging your attention more than any crossroads subject. This is most visible in Max, who, while almost stereotypically awkward, is by far the most mentally powerful character in the film. The rigidity and perfection of his suit and glasses help to give his presence an artificial but powerful presence. This overbearing symmetry works well to bring these qualities out to the forefront. He’s a blank slate; despite his various leadership roles in clubs, he lacks emotional development. A figure of eccentric intelligence, set on competing with Blume instead winning the compassion of Rosemary.
Now, where do these feelings work their way into the film? Why, it’s everywhere. I think Rushmore is just one giant race for perfection. You look at Max, a prodigy, overworking himself, and for what? Not marks, but experiences. To him, perfection isn’t a number, but a sense. And in his developing teenaged mind, the most important yet final part is the admiration of a woman. His downfall finally arrives when he realizes that his practical wit cannot help him win the love of another human being.
But that’s where we come to the final act of the film, where, fittingly, Max adapts a play of his own creation. For the first time, in a play, we see true compassion in Max. The following scene, the celebration, sees this idea bloom into full effect. It’s different from the rest of the movie in that we see Max conform to the rule of thirds, giving ample space for Margaret to literally enter his life and ‘screen time’. In this scene, we also see Max lose those chunky glasses, representing the unveiling of his prodigious façade. He stops being such an actor and more of a person worth more than just the sum of his extra-curricular activities.
*The sweet almost to the point of cloying/bubbly music in the first half of the film. The strange but slight zoom cuts in conversations. Random shaky camera in otherwise still scenes.