Rushmore written and directed by Wes Anderson, Touchtone Pictures, 1998, 93 minutes.
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is an eccentric 15-year-old who attends Rushmore, an elite east coast prep school, on scholarship. Max isn’t an academic student. His classes at Rushmore don’t interest him as much as his many diverse extracurricular activities, which include being the Yearbook editor-in-chief, French club president, Stamp and Coin club vice-president, Debate Team captain, Lacrosse Team manager, Calligraphy Club president, and Bee Keeper President. Despite his participation in these clubs, Max is largely friendless, except for a younger student who Max tries to mentor, even while he is in danger of getting kicked out of school for his bad grades. When he meets and falls in love with Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), a widowed first grade teacher, he becomes even less interested in school.
Herman Blume (Bill Murray) is a man in the middle of a midlife crisis. Neither his work nor his family appears to interest him, but he takes a shine to Max, whose precociousness and originality he admires. The two become friends until Herman meets and also falls in love with Miss Cross. When the two start dating, Max does everything he can to undermine the relationship. Max not only hurts Blume and Miss Cross, but threatens his place at his beloved Rushmore.
Rushmore is a quirky comedy that can be enjoyed by teens and adults alike. What the film captures so well are the wild enthusiasms of the young, from their infatuation with various interests and hobbies, to their infatuation with people who are clearly wrong for them. Max’s crush on Miss Cross shows how little logic and reason plays a part in our crushes. Unlike most boys his age, Max is eccentric enough to follow his impulses and pursue a woman nearly twice his age.
Max’s relationship with the adult Blume also feels believable, despite their differences in age and life experiences. The deadness Blume feels when he examines his life makes it understandable why he turns to the younger Max, so full of interests and ambitions, for friendship. He needs to recapture some of Max’s enthusiasms. When he falls in love with Miss Cross, he becomes alive once again.
All the actors are perfectly cast, especially Jason Schwartzman as Max and Bill Murray as Blume. Rushmore has a signature style (lots of deep focused, wide screen shots) and deadpan comedic tone that Wes Anderson has developed in his subsequent films The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, and the recently released Moonrise Kingdom. The soundtrack of classic British invasion songs is a perfect fit with the film’s characters and story.
Max Fischer loves everything about his prep school Rushmore. He loves it so much he is in danger of flunking out. When his extra curricular activities and crush on Miss Cross, an elementary school teacher, threaten to get him expelled, he turns to Herman Blume, a fellow student’s father, for help and finds both a friend and a rival for Miss Cross’s affections.
Information about the author
From the director’s Wikipedia page, we learn that Wes Anderson “is an American film director, screenwriter, actor, and producer of features, short films and commercials. He was nominated for a 2001 Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Royal Tenenbaums and a 2009 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for Fantastic Mr. Fox. His films employ similar aesthetics, using a deliberate, methodical cinematography, with mostly primary colors. His soundtracks feature folk and early rock music, in particular classic British rock. Anderson’s films combine dry humor with poignant portrayals of flawed characters – often a mix of the wealthy and the working class. He is also known for working with many of the same actors and crew on varying projects.
Independent film, comedy, coming of age
Is Max or his school responsible for his poor academic standing?
Why does Max intentionally hurt the people he likes?
Reading Level / Interest Age
Grade 10 and up
The film is rated R for language and some mention of sex acts. Common Sense media rates the film appropriate for 15 year olds.
Why did I include this title?
This is one of my favorite movies about high school. Even though the situation that Max, Blume, and Miss Cross find themselves in is extreme, their emotional responses are all very believable and poignant. The film is both very funny and deeply moving.