By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
|Photo by Van Redin|
The kid who teaches Blume this unlikely lesson is Max Fischer, the 15-year-old Rushmore student who first becomes the millionaire’s confidant, then his vengeful enemy. One of those kids who seems to have skipped child hood altogether, Max is a scholarship student with a devotion to his school that is absolute: He monitors his fellow students by walkie-talkie and heads up what seems to be every team, society and extra curricular activity on campus — the Debate Team, French Club, Fencing Team, Stamp & Coin Club, Astronomy Society, even the Beekeepers. More impor tantly, he’s the visionary behind the Max Fischer Players, a drama club of unusually towering reach for which he does all the writing and directing and some of the acting. What Max isn’t is a good student, and shortly after the film opens he’s put on academic probation. What follows — how Max survives and doesn’t, how he falls in with a middle-aged man and in love with a beautiful young woman — makes up the story of Rushmore, but doesn’t explain its wayward humor, the elegance of its structure or Anderson’s lyrical sense of longing.
Most directors who work with Murray can’t keep a lid on him; many don’t bother to try (much of the time, you get the sense that the actor isn’t trying much, either). Anderson keeps Murray reined in, and in return the actor delivers a wistful performance with no loud notes. In a funny way, Murray succeeds in making his part seem larger by playing everything quieter than usual; he even has the sense to let himself play second banana to an unknown young actor named Jason Schwartzman, who makes a stunning feature debut as Blume’s once-and-future friend. With his fantastically wild and mossy eyebrows, heavy-framed glasses and serious nose, Max Fischer — the last name is a pointed reference to the once-precocious chess genius — looks like he’s wearing one of those gag glasses-and-nose appliances. It’s an extraordinary face. Anderson, whose first feature was a sweetly skewed caper movie, Bottle Rocket, coaxes lovely performances from all his actors (including Seymour Cassel as Max’s dad, Brian Cox as his headmaster and Mason Gamble as his best friend), but what he manages with Schwartzman is magical: He makes him a star.
As with everything else in this movie, the greatness of the performance sneaks up on you. Not long after Max is put on probation, he cooks up a scheme to build an aquarium and stages an adaptation of Serpico. Things haven’t been going right for Max — he got a 37 on a geometry test and the woman he loves is an elementary school teacher nearly twice his age named Miss Cross (Olivia Williams) — but the aquarium makes some sort of crazy sense, and his stage drama, with its downy, pubescent boys dressed like nuns and undercover cops, brings down the house. That night after the play, Max, Blume, Miss Cross and her friend, a young doctor (Luke Wilson, co-writer Owen’s brother) to whom Max takes an instant dislike, go out for dinner at one of those sepulchral restaurants where the monied murmur into linen napkins. Blume pours the prodigy a drink, and all of a sudden Max doesn’t sound like a 60-year-old man with a lifetime already behind him. Suddenly, as he wails out his pain ("You hurt my feelings!"), he sounds like the kid he is.
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