Written by: Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Olivia Williams, Bill Murray, Brian Cox, Seymour Cassel
Everything in life feels monumental when you initially experience it as compared to the larger picture of your time on Earth. None of it feels bigger when in our youth and the way we can build it all up to some life and death circumstances even if it does not measure up in all reality. In Rushmore, we certainly receive this type of perspective from this young boy when his place in school signifies everything in life to a head-scratching degree.
Attending Rushmore academy through scholarship, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) may not excel academically but certainly holds the place as the most involved student at the school. However, with his grades reaching a point where he could get kicked out he needs to shape up in this area as he also battles with his affection for a new teacher at the academy, Rosemary (Olivia Williams).
The degree to which Max has involved himself in extracurricular activities not only borders on absurdity but begs the question of how he can possibly find the time to do everything. Starting out the film, a montage delves into every club he engages in and those he personally founded since his start at the school. How he manages to do it all makes no sense, but his lack of academic achievement certainly reflects his misguided priorities. It sets the stage for the character of Max we follow throughout the feature and the makings of someone beyond his years but also incredibly immature as you would expect from someone his age. It allows us to take in everything he embodies, warts and all.
With Max, we have a character going through quite a tumultuous time throughout this feature and much of it comes from the image and bubble he has built around him. He has crafted something so intricate in how he presents himself that when it begins to crumble even in the slightest, it leads him down this downward spiral where he becomes quite the menace to everyone around him to a shocking degree. This all begins with lying about his origins. Rushmore certainly stands as an academy for the wealthy to send their kids to receive a world-class education and Max got there through a scholarship seeing as he comes from a humbler beginning with just a barber father. He never reveals this to his classmates because it does not align with the image he wants for himself. Something many can certainly relate to but this finds its way into the behavior Max engages in to distract everyone from his true self and when it gets revealed it shows a boy with many issues to work out.
Where he truly begins to go downhill arrives with his crush and self-proclaimed love for Rosemary, which makes for some obvious complications. Not only does the issue arrive from him being an actual child and Rosemary a grown woman but then clashing with Herman Blume (Bill Murray). This strange love triangle forms and thus shows the absolute worst versions of Max and also Herman in the way they battle each other through some heinous pranks in order to somehow defeat the other in the conquest of this woman. These go from harmless fun to ridiculously dangerous in a hilarious way to show the seriousness each of them takes in this battle. All of this falls in line with this assertion Max has of being someone much grander than reality shows. He has this mystique around where he stands with his age and stature that certainly needs some humbling. Something he does receive in moments throughout this feature.
As with many Wes Anderson films, this feature has some bombast in the showiness of the production design and how it gets utilized in this feature shows how seriously Max takes everything he engages in. You would think the plays he would put on would have the level of other high school productions but these must have the budget of a feature film in the intricate details involved with them and the quality on display. It becomes absurd just how much he can get done serving as proof as to why he remains a wholly interesting character to follow throughout the feature because he definitely does have brilliance in the areas he dedicates his time to and it proves as something incredibly impressive continually throughout the film even if in some situations you just have to sit back and laugh.
Following his rough around the edges debut with Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson completely levels up with what he creates here with both his writing but also his direction. From the incredible works he has crafted throughout, you can see the beginnings of it all with what he crafts here. His comedic chops start out here in earnest and make for so many humorous moments throughout. You can say Anderson truly arrived on the scene with this feature as it demonstrates the quality we could expect from him moving forward but it also served as his first collaboration with both Jason Schwartzman and Bill Murray. Schwartzman has made his name as a quirky actor and it all starts here with his tremendous portrayal of Max as he nails the childishness and insecurity of this character so well as he pairs with Murray. I have always stated Bill Murray’s work with Wes Anderson has marked the zenith of his career and it all starts here with his work as Herman Blume. Capturing both the inherent sadness of this man’s life and how his relationship with Max and Rosemary marks something invigorating makes for a strong character and utilizes Murray’s charm at its finest.
Rushmore will certainly provide many moments where you’ll want to turn on Max as nothing but a little demon but the character work done here and him being a child makes for such an entertaining viewing experience. Something filled with so much life, humor, and ridiculousness to take everything in stride and enjoy the ride we go on with this feature. We gain so much by following Max’s journey even as he proves he can be quite the brat, but he’s our little brat.