“He’s 5-foot-3. 112 pounds. Black hair. Glasses… Oval face.”
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is the un-hailed king of Rushmore Academy. Rushmore is his life. He is a scholarship student, made such because of a stellar one-act play he wrote about the Watergate scandal in the second grade.
Per the film’s opening, he is involved in 18 different clubs and extracurriculars, and is always on the lookout for another activity to add to his jam-packed routine. But that doesn’t make him an exemplary student. In fact, he is swiftly put on academic probation because of poor grades; if he fails one more class, he will be kicked out of prep school.
Max develops a fat crush on elementary school teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), and with the help of Herman Blume (Bill Murray), an industrialist with a soft spot for Max, Max seeks to win over the heart of Miss Cross by building a magnificent marine observatory for her. But when Headmaster Guggenheim (Brian Cox) catches wind of Max’s plans, Max is expelled and must make a transition to Grover Cleveland High, a local public school where his love of extracurriculars isn’t shared by many.
“My top schools where I want to apply to are Oxford and the Sorbonne. But my safety’s Harvard.”
Herman, too, has developed an infatuation for Miss Cross, and the two begin seeing each other. This spawns a war, both for Rosemary’s affections and against each other, when Max discovers what’s going on. Rosemary eventually gets rid of Herman and stops talking to Max, because they’re both “little children,” something she learns after Max tries to woo her for the last time by faking being hit by a car. On top of that, Max has lost the loyalty of his friend Dirk by spreading a rumor about he and Dirk’s mother and spurned the friendship of Grover Cleveland classmate Margaret.
Knowing he can’t win Rosemary for himself, Max instead tries to repair his academic standing and his relationship with his friends, right his wrongs, and win back Rosemary for Herman, with the aid of some unlikely helpers and a scheme so crazy it just might work.
“Couldn’t we just let me float by, for old times sake?”
Director Wes Anderson is known for the light-hearted whimsy he brings to the screen, a sense of almost unreality that viewers either love or hate. Count me as the former, because I loved Rushmore. It is creative and funny, sometimes sad but always charming.
And while it does at times approach that surreal whimsy that is typical of Anderson, Rushmore is still able to come back to reality and play with emotions in a way that really makes you care about and feel for this slacker of a student.
With Rushmore, Anderson attempts to show that we all deserve a happy ending: whether we’ve been hurt or have done the hurting, whether we are in the right or in the wrong, we all deserve a silver lining.
“I saved Latin. What did you do?”
Though not as noteworthy as the A-list cast he brought together in 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson has spooled together a fantastic group of actors here, both young and old. Schwartzman makes for a perfect Max Fischer, and is very believable as an eccentric teenager trying to get what he wants.
Good, too, is Bill Murray as Herman Blume. He plays the role in a rather understated manner at times, but is enjoyable nonetheless. His comic timing has always been good, but seeing him in a role that requires a little dramatic acting is fantastic.
Olivia Williams makes for an excellent Miss Rosemary Cross. She is pretty in the way I always hoped my elementary school teachers would be, and exudes a sophistication we often expect in academics. The roster is rounded out with great child acting from Mason Gamble and Sara Tanaka as Dirk and Margaret, respectively, nice turns from Seymour Cassel as Max’s father Bert and Brian Cox as Dr. Guggenheim, and a very funny yet small role from Luke Wilson as Rosemary’s Harvard friend.
“Take dictation, please. Possible candidates for the Kite Flying Society…”
Rushmore begins with a devilishly funny and handsomely charming opening sequence and closes with a very touching ending. Fortunately, everything that happens during those in-between 80 minutes is equally as funny, charming, and touching. It would have been a shame if that wasn’t the case, but I’m glad it is. In the few films of his that I’ve seen, Wes Anderson has yet to disappoint, and that short list now includes Rushmore.
Going in, I hadn’t anticipated writing a full review of Rushmore. I generally save full-length reviews for new releases, and generate smaller “capsule” reviews for older fare. But as I began writing my capsule review, I got swept away, much as I did during the opening minutes of Rushmore. It’s a new favorite of mine.