Rushmore

Released:  1998

Cast:  Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Seymour Cassel, Brian Cox, Mason Gamble, Sara Tanaka, Stephen McCole, Connie Nielsen, Luke Wilson

SUMMARY:  Rushmore Academy is an elite prep school in Houston, Texas, headed by Dr. Guggenheim (Brian Cox).  The school also has an extremely wealthy alumnus/benefactor named Herman Blume (Bill Murray), whose twin sons are enrolled there.  The most active student at Rushmore, though, is Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), who has created a huge number of clubs and organizations on campus.  Unfortunately, this dedication does not extend to his actual schoolwork:  this, and his headstrong attitude, put him at odds with Dr. Guggenheim.  One day Max and Herman meet, and despite the age difference (Herman’s sons are about the same age as Max), the two find a connection and become friends.  Max lets Herman in on his secret crush, a first-grade teacher at Rushmore named Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams).  Rosemary is widowed, and has only recently joined the school staff.  Max begins to actively pursue her; while Rosemary initially tolerates this, she begins to grow more and more uncomfortable with his attention.  Eventually Max introduces Herman and Rosemary, and a legitimate attraction develops between the two of them (despite the fact that Herman is married).  Max is completely oblivious to this, and doesn’t know that they begin secretly dating.  In order to win Rosemary over, Max decides to build an aquarium at the school, funded by Herman.  However, he doesn’t ask permission to do this; when he attempts to break ground he is stopped by Dr. Guggenheim and expelled.

For the first time in his life, Max has to attend a public school, Grover Cleveland High.  Herman and Rosemary both encourage him to make a good effort to fit in, but the two schools are dramatically different:  the public school has very few of the clubs and organizations that Max is used to, and the students have little respect for his eccentric quirks.  One exception to this rule is Margaret Yang, a student who takes an immediate liking to Max.  Max is still obsessed with Rosemary, and does not notice Margaret’s obvious attempts to engage him.  Back at Rushmore, Max’s young friend Dirk hears a nasty rumor about his mother, started by Max.  He decides to take revenge on Max by spilling the beans about Rosemary and Herman.  Max is furious at Herman’s betrayal, and starts sabotaging him:  he tells Mrs. Blume about Herman and Rosemary, puts bees into Herman’s hotel room, and cuts the brakes on his car.  Herman retaliates by running over Max’s bike with his car.  Rosemary is irritated and exasperated by all this, and breaks things off with Herman.  Max’s brake-cutting episode gets him arrested; after this, he stops the war with Herman.  In a truce meeting, Max tells Herman that no matter what happens, Rosemary will still love Herman.  Max becomes so despondent over losing Rosemary that he stops going to school and spends all his time at his father’s barbershop.  Some weeks later, Dirk comes by and apologizes; he also informs Max that Dr. Guggenheim is in the hospital.  Max goes to visit, only to run into Herman, who is doing the same thing.  Herman is a mess, and confesses that he is getting divorced — and that Rosemary dumped him.  This puts new life into Max, who goes back to school and gets involved in extracurriculars, particularly theater, again.  Margaret continues to seek him out, and gets cast in several plays.  Knowing that she and Herman broke up, Max tries again to win Rosemary over.  He fakes an injury in front of her house, which gains her sympathy — until she figures things out and kicks him out.  Max finally realizes that he will never be with Rosemary, so he decides to win her back for Herman.  He invites both to the premier of his latest play and has them sit next to each other; during the after-party the two get back together.  Max also officially begins dating Margaret.

MY TAKE:  I’m not a huge Wes Anderson fan:  I like some of his stuff, but some of it is too weird/dumb for me.  I absolutely hated The Grand Budapest Hotel.  This is one of his films that I did like, although parts of it were obviously overblown.  I don’t think a fifteen-year-old would be able to nearly build an aquarium on school grounds without attracting some attention (before the groundbreaking), and I know that somebody would take notice if he just stopped going to school for several weeks.  When I was in school, if they didn’t know where you were for a day people started calling your house.  The relationships among the triangle are a little weird, too, just because Max is so much younger than Rosemary or Herman.  However, overall I enjoyed the film.  Somehow Max manages to not seem creepy in his pursuit of Rosemary, which is pretty amazing when you think about what he did.

RATING:  Not bad.

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