Rebellion, love and angst. You know, the perfect mix for any 15-year-old.
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is a 15-year-old high school student who absolutely loves the hell out of his school, a little, privately-owned joint called “Rushmore”, that he’s in on academic-scholarship. He loves it so much, that he practically starts, runs and is apart of every group/activity there is to be apart of at the school, which definitely makes him feel inspired most of the time and probably look good in the eyes of future-colleges he aspires to go to, like Harvard or Oxford, but is taken a beating on his studies. However, he doesn’t really seem to care too much, since he sees himself as willing to pull any strings that he can in order to get what what he wants, when he wants. That’s why when the beautiful, yet mysterious teacher Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams) comes along his way and stuns him, he can’t help but fall weak at the knees and do whatever it is that he can do to have her fall in love with him, despite the age-difference. Also, an older, but dedicated friend of his Herman Blume (Bill Murray) seems to take notice of her as well and even gets in the way of Max’s plans, which is exactly when things start to get very tense, very angry and very sad for all three of these individuals lives.
For anybody, high school is a pretty rough time. Not only is your body changing, but so is your mind and brain, and with that, you begin to think and feel differently than ever before. In other words: You begin to get older and grasp what it means to be “an adult”. That sounds scary and all (which it definitely is, so RUN AND HIDE!), but for some people, they can’t wait for that moment to come around when they finally get rid of that adolescence that’s been holding them down for so long, to where they can take that next step into adulthood where they’ll have more responsibilities, more ideas of who they are and most importantly, more freedom than ever before. For some, it happens quicker than others, but it does eventually happen and it’s kind of scary, dare I say it.
However, what happens when you’re already somewhat of an adult at an early-age? Well, that’s where Max Fischer comes into play and show you the result of what happens when a kid who is way too smart, way too knowing and way too tactical for his own age or good, just so happens to fall victim to one of the most powerful, earth-shattering forces in the world: Love. Yes, love is definitely one of those first baby-steps we take into adult-hood and needless to say, it’s not all that it’s made out to be, especially not in today’s day and age where most of the adolescent-relationships we see occur nowadays, only last for a year, or even less.
Anyway though, that’s besides the point. The point here, is that this is a Wes Anderson movie we have on our hands, folks, and it’s definitely one of the first instances in which anybody actually took notice of this guy and saw him as the real deal. Which is why it’s pretty interesting to have seen all of his films now (some of them, more than once) and see just what was to come with his style, his themes and his character-developments, all through this movie.
But as I could definitely go on and on about how Anderson’s work here, practically shapes-out everything that was next to come, I won’t. Instead, I’ll focus on one aspect of his writing-style that Anderson seems to truly love and utilize more often than not, which is that he loves it when two opposing-sides/personalities, come together and clash head-on. Not only does he love writing us vibrant, lovable and colorful characters that are quite hard to forget, he also loves seeing them when they are at their lowest, or highest, in self-esteem. Because, honestly, whenever anybody is upset by anything, their anger usually gets the best of them and they show ugly-sides to them that they don’t ever want anybody to see. Anderson loves this about his characters and it shows that he loves to give his characters some depth, but also make us realize that they are actually people we’re dealing with here, faults and all, baby.
That’s why when watching a character like Max Fischer, you can’t help but feel like Wes Anderson knew exactly what he was doing, why he was doing it, and exactly whom it was that he was doing it with. I definitely bet that back in ’97 or whenever this flick was made, that Anderson took a real bold step with choosing relative-unknown Jason Schwartzman for this lead role as Max Fischer, but it was a gamble that paid-off big time as not only did it make Schwartzman a bigger-name, but gave us such an iconic character in the form of Max Fischer – the character I think every teen, male or female, should shape a small part of their lives around, for better, and especially for worse.
See, what makes Max Fischer so interesting as a character is that you don’t necessarily know how to pin him down; he’s kind of cool, in a real nerdy, preppy-way, but he’s also kind of a jerk that steps over people’s feet, just to get by in the world and make himself better. However, on the other hand, he’s also really smart and despite being quite naive about the possibility of having this much-older woman be his special, one and only someone, there’s a part of him you can definitely see knows exactly what it is that he wants to do with life, and how he’s prepared to get by in the world. He’s got the look and body of a 15-year-old kid, but the mind of a 40-year-old, been-there-done-that kind of guy. He’s a little bit cool; a little bit nerdy; a little hopeless; a little bit selfish; a little bit arrogant; and a little bit too ambitious. However, the fact remains is that he is human, and more important: He’s a 15-year-old high school student that’s just trying to understand his life, one embarrassing situation at a time.
But as much as I could harp on and on about how rad and well-written Fischer is, the fact remains that Jason Schwartzman does a very awesome job with this role, nailing all the deadpan delivery Anderson needed to have this character feel a bit more raw, without ever trying to be too real. When he raises his middle-finger up to those who look down on him, you can’t help but want to get up and join him; when he tries to kiss Ms. Cross and gets denied, you can’t help but want to give him a hug and go get some ice cream with him; and most of all, when he’s trying to impress those around him and do cool things, you can’t help but want to join in on the fun, because he’s just that awesome to be around.
So yeah, kids, if you need a role model in your life, look no further than Max Fischer. The kid’s got all of the answers. Or, at least some of them.
The one person you don’t want to have as a role model is probably who Bill Murray plays here, Herman Blume. By now, each and everyone of us know that Murray is a Jack-of-all-trades; not only can he be hilariously off-kilter and goofy, but he can also dial-it-back and be subdued, giving us a very humane, down-to-Earth person that we may have never thought was there in the first place. But back in ’98, before Wes Anderson came around, he was sort of just known to us as Bill Murray, a guy who can be, and is, downright hilarious. Here though, Murray finally got a chance to show everybody that he could actually act, and by doing so, he gave us a very sad, very emotional look at a guy who is just depressed with life. Herman Blume not only hates his kids, but he hates his wife, his job, his salary and even hates rich people, despite being one of them. That’s why when you see him absolutely light-up whenever Max is around, it’s sweet to see since you know that this is a down-and-out guy, finally finding someone he can connect with and be around, and not actually hate.
So when the two actually do start fighting over this gal, it’s amusing to watch, in a funny way, but also a bit sad since you know they are friends, and they are hurting one another’s feelings. But it’s all for a good cause, right? Well, I’d say so, because Ms. Cross is a catch for any guy that’s able to nab her down, thanks mostly to Olivia Williams perfectly-nuanced performance. She’s pretty, British, charming and pretty easy-going, but we do know that there’s a huge path of sadness just brewing all beneath her, and it makes you wonder if either of these guys deserve to be with her, or if she should just give up on dating alone and live the rest of her life in solitude and sadness. Doesn’t sound too ideal, but I guess when you have two wild cards like Herman Blume and Max Fischer fighting over you, then I guess it’s the only possible solution really.
Consensus: Wry, snappy and chock-full of angst, Rushmore finds Wes Anderson at his meanest, yet, still finds a way to give us characters that we can not only love, but identify with, making their adventures together all the more rewarding by the end.
9 / 10 = Full Price!!