Rushmore, directed by Wes Anderson is a wonderfully strange movie
whose strangeness is what makes it worth seeing. Its main character is Max
Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), a precocious 15-year old student at a posh
prep-school called Rushmore Academy. He is there on scholarship as his father,
wonderfully played by Seymour Cassel is a barber who clearly looks with
admiration and awe upon his talented and brainy son. But Max is unfortunately
not nearly so talented in his academic work as he is as a mover and operator in
practically every extracurricular club and society that Rushmore has to offer.
In fact, he spends all his time in extracurricular activities and flattering the
sexy divorced mother of his younger
partner,” Dirk (Mason Gamble), in the
vain hope of receiving romantic, or at least sexual, attention from her. As a
result, he has to be placed on “sudden
death academic probation” by the
headmaster, Dr Guggenheim (Brian Cox).

At about the same time he meets the millionaire father of two of his most
mindless and moronic classmates, a sad but very funny guy called Mr Blume (Bill
Murray), and a very attractive young widow called Miss Cross (Olivia Williams)
who teaches first grade in the school and upon whom he immediately develops a
monster crush. Mr Blume is impressed by
Max’s entrepreneurial and managerial
talents and offers him a job while Miss Cross, thinking the disparity in their
ages too obviously a romantic obstacle to be worried about him, consents to be
Max’s friend. But soon she has to be
more openly and brutally discouraging to him and, to make matters worse, begins
an affair with Mr Blume, whom Max now regards as his mortal enemy.

What I liked about his film was its portrait of youth against type. Max with
his thick glasses and his obvious self-identification with the stuffy
prep-school and its traditions is bravely and unashamedly uncool. When Mr Blume,
who is as lost a soul as only Bill Murray can make him, asks Max
the secret?” since he, Max, seems to
have “got it figured
out,” Max tells him:
“Find what you like to do and do it
for the rest of your life. For me it’s
going to Rushmore.” Is this guy for
real? Moreover, where it seems to be the ambition of everyone in America born
since the war to remain a child for as long as possible, Max
can’t wait to grow up. Indeed, he
stubbornly refuses to recognize that he is not already grown up, and the equal
of Mr Blume in rivalry for Miss
Cross’s affections. Here is a film
which presents us with an image of American adolescence which is the more
compelling as it is patently unreal.

I think in the end the film is a little too busy, with stories about Dirk and
his mother, a bully called Buchan (Stephen McCole) and a girl called Margaret
Yang (Sara Tanaka) too often tending to trip over one another and the main
narrative lines. In particular, I think we see too little of Margaret, who seems
an interesting character in her own right, and not enough is made of
Max’s brief sojourn in a public
school. But these are minor quibbles, and I have to say that I enjoyed the thing
from beginning to end.

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