You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up.
But I send my kids here because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore.
Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you're going to stay rich.
But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down.
Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it. Thank you.
- Herman Blume, speech to Rushmore Academy
Rushmore is a 1998 theatrical film directed by Wes Anderson and starring Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Olivia Williams. The film tells a tale of a high school aged boy and a middle-aged man who views his life as a failure who compete for the attention of a school teacher. It's funny, touching, and exquisitely made.
Original Release: 1998
Running Time: 93 minutes
Sound: DTS / Dolby Digital / SDDS
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief nudity
Rushmore is available worldwide in VHS format and is available in many countries (including the United States) in two distinct DVD packagings: a bare-bones DVD, as well as a Criterion Collection deluxe DVD, the latter of which is discussed in detail below.
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson
Producers: Wes Anderson, John Cameron (NOT that Jon Cameron), Barry Mendel, Paul Schiff, and Owen Wilson
Cast: (in approximate order of screentime)
Jason Schwartzman portrays Max Fischer
Bill Murray portrays Herman J. Blume
Olivia Williams portrays Rosemary Cross
Seymour Cassel portrays Bert Fischer
Brian Cox portrays Dr. Nelson Guggenheim
Mason Gamble portrays Dirk Calloway
Sara Tanaka portrays Margaret Yang
Stephen McCole portrays Magnus Buchan
Connie Nielsen portrays Mrs. Calloway
Luke Wilson portrays Dr. Peter Flynn
Dipak Pallana portrays Mr. Adams
Andrew Wilson portrays Coach Beck
Marietta Marich portrays Mrs. Guggenheim
Ronnie McCawley portrays Ronny Blume
Keith McCawley portrays Donny Blume
... and many others in minor roles
Music: The Rolling Stones, The Who, John Lennon, The Kinks, Cat Stevens, Mark Mothersbaugh, The Faces, Chad & Jeremy, Creation, Paul Desmond, Unit 4 + 2, Zoot Sims, Donovan, Yves Montand, The Vince Guaraldi Trio, and Django Reinhardt. Most are available on the Rushmore soundtrack, available on Polygram Records.
Production Company: Touchstone / American Empirical
Distribution: Buena Vista / Criterion
The Film Itself
This is a description of the plot of the film in great detail. Spoilers galore. Skip this section if you don't want to know.
The film opens in a math class, in which we see the teacher present an extra credit problem which the teacher deems to be impossible. Max Fischer, a student in the class, stands up and proceeds to solve the problem to the loud applause of the class.
This turns out to be a dream, and Max wakes up in the middle of a school assembly, where the speaker, Herman Blume, proceeds to give a speech in which he rips on rich kids, part of which is quoted at the top of this review. Max is the only person that applauds the speech, and afterwards Max introduces himself to Herman.
Several brief clips are then show of Max involved in a ridiculous number of extracurricular activities at school, some of them bordering on the ridiculous.
Max then has a meeting with the head of the school, Professor Guggenheim. Max's grades are atrocious, and so Guggenheim puts Max on probation, stating that if he doesn't pull his grades up, he will be thrown out of Rushmore. Max tries various forms of appeal, bringing up that he is on scholarship there and the fact that he got into Rushmore because of an exceptional play he wrote, but Guggenheim doesn't budge.
Max then goes to the library and proceeds to play backgammon with another student while reading a book, Diving For Sunken Treasure by Jacques Cousteau. In the book, Max finds a quote hand-written in the margins that intrigues him...
"When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity
to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right
to keep it to himself."
- Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Max rushes to the librarian and asks for a list of who checked out the book in the past and tracks the writer down to a first grade teacher at the academy, Rosemary Cross.
Max then talks to the mother of his chapel partner, Dirk, who is quite fetching (this conversation doesn't say much of anything, but is important later). After the chat, Max insinuates to another student that he's gotten some action from Dirk's mother in a schoolboy-on-the-playground kind of farcical way. Max then meets up with Herman Blume who is picking up his twin sons, Ron and Don. Max walks home and gets his hair cut by his father, who is a barber. Max shows a failing grade to his father and his father gracefully accepts it, then the two walk home together.
After this, Max tries desperately hard to impress Rosemary Cross by acting very intellectual and sensitive (beret and all, which looks somewhat goofy on him). Miss Cross decries the elimination of Latin from the school a bit and the two have a lengthy chat. After this, Max distributes a petition to keep Latin, and the success of his petition causes Latin to be a required course for all students grades 7 through 12.
Max and Herman go to a wrestling meet together, Herman seemingly there to watch his two sons and Max there for no apparent reason at first. The two of them converse while the matches go on and Herman invites Max to the birthday party of Ron and Don, then Max suddenly jumps up and reveals he's wearing a wrestling uniform under his suit as he is a substitute wrestler; Max then quickly gets beaten in a match.
When the birthday party happens, Herman sits by himself and is clearly hating the whole thing. He eventually throws himself in the pool cannonball-style and sinks to the bottom. After this, Rosemary and Max spend some time feeding Rosemary's fish in her classroom; she has a large number of fish tanks. During the conversation, Rosemary reveals her husband died and that she truly loves aquariums. Max then visits Herman at work and gets him to donate money to Rushmore to pay for a large aquarium on the school's campus, which Max takes charge of building. In the process, part of the baseball field at the school gets annexed into the project.
At this point, Max's obsession with Rosemary becomes apparent, as he starts bringing her fish, bringing her lemonade and fresh pens in the library and so forth. She basically rebuffs his advances in the library, but he sort of just blows it off.
We then see the first of a handful of plays directed by Max Fischer, this one Serpico. Both Max and Rosemary are in the audience. The set is completely out of proportion with any sort of reality of what a high school play should be; massive time was invested in it, giving a hint to another obsession of Max's. After the play, Rosemary introduces Max to her date, Dr. Peter Flynn. Needless to say, isn't much of a fan of Flynn, and at dinner with Peter, Rosemary, and Herman, Max gets plastered and just blasts Rosemary and Peter to a ridiculous level.
After that, Herman visits Rosemary at school and talks to her a bit about Max, delivering a letter from Max to Rosemary. By the end of the chat, it becomes clear that Herman is a bit infatuated with Rosemary, too. Then, at the opening of the aquarium, Max is disappointed because Rosemary doesn't show up (he basically built the aquarium for her), and the baseball coach isn't happy at all with the destruction of his field. The end result is that Guggenheim, who apparently was unaware of the aquarium, expels Max from the school.
Max then goes to a local public school, where suffice it to say, he doesn't fit in. However, a girl there named Margaret Yang takes a shine to him. Max still keeps in touch with the peole from Rushmore, most notably Magnus (a Irish bully), his chapel partner Dirk, and of course Herman and Rosemary. After this, Max and Rosemary make up, and Max even convinces Rosemary to tutor him. He finds himself spending time with Rosemary and Herman, even though he's still going to the public school, where Margaret is trying very hard to impress him.
After a while, Max starts to try to get involved at the public high school, becoming a male cheerleader and taking over the drama club. On the spur of the moment, Max asks Margaret to be in his next play. While this is going on, Herman and Rosemary start to bond, going on walks together and such. This budding relationship is spotted by Dirk, and he threatens Herman because of it. After this, we find that the rumor about Max and Dirk's mom has become quite widespread, as Magnus tells Dirk a modified version of the story. Dirk does not take it well and writes a rather angry letter to Max about it (in crayon).
Max then follows Herman to Rosemary's house at two in the morning and hides in Herman's car until he comes out. This is followed by a progressively more destructive series of events as Herman and Max compete for the affections of Rosemary's affections, including Max telling Herman's wife about his affair, Max dumping bees into Herman's hotel room, Herman driving over Max's bike, Max cutting the brakelines on Herman's car, and Max sending incriminating pictures of Herman and Rosemary to Professor Guggenheim. After that, Max returns to Rushmore to talk to Guggenheim about the pictures, but is attacked by Dirk and several of his friends throwing rocks at Max.
After calling a truce with Dirk, Max and Guggenheim get into an argument about the blackmail aspects of the pictures. Max and Guggenheim have some sort of struggle, and Guggenheim collapses. After this, Max goes and visits Rosemary, who has been fired by the school. They argue, and the result is that the pseudo-fantasy that Max lives in with Rosemary is broken. Then, in the fourth straight scene of Max fighting, he gets beat up by Magnus.
At this point, Max goes and visits his mother's grave and is joined by Herman and the two of them call a truce between each other, and Max just sort of gives up. He starts working with his father at the barber shop and continues to ignore the advances of Margaret, who even brings a plant to Max's house in an attempt to cheer him up. Eventually, even Dirk comes around, visiting Max at the barbershop and giving him a Christmas present, which starts to bring Max out of his depressed shell.
Max then visits Guggenheim at the hospital, as Guggenheim had a stroke as Max and he struggled; at the same time, Herman visits Guggenheim as well, and Max and Herman have a bit of reconciliation of sorts. As things seem to be going somewhat well, Max makes a final last-ditch effort to get Rosemary, faking a bicycle accident in order to get into her house. After a bit, she sees through the whole thing and Max leaves, although it becomes clear that she does get a bit of a kick out of Max.
Max and Dirk go out to an airfield and fly kites together, but it quickly becomes clear that this is a setup by Dirk to get Max to pay some attention to Margaret, who also happens to be there. Max finally pays some degree of attention to Margaret, and the two begin to hit it off. This seems to snap Max out of his shell, and Max begins to plan for a new play of some sort. After this, Max's new direction begins to spread to Herman, as Max gives Herman a pin that matches his own and introduces Herman to his father. To this point, Herman had believed that Max's father was affluent, so at this point, Herman sees Max in a bit of a different and perhaps better light.
The two eventually hatch a plan to build a huge aquarium (costing roughly $10 million) on the campus of Rushmore, seemingly with the hope of Herman winning Rosemary over, but Rosemary doesn't show up for the groundbreaking of the aquarium. While this is happening, Max really seems to come back to life and starts writing again and eventually comes up with a play based on the Vietnam War.
The final scenes of the movie revolve around Max making his new play, inviting Magnus to be in the play, getting dynamite (?) for the play, and generally putting it together. The play, Heaven and Hell, serves to tie up the whole movie in the final scenes; as virtually every character in the whole movie are all together in the crowd or involved in the show. At the close, all of the characters in the film gather together backstage and reminisce a bit, and then Max and Margaret dance together. At the very end, Max and Rosemary dance together to close the film, but it is almost bittersweet as they aren't ending up together.
The soundtrack for this film is structured around the music of the British Invasion in the 1960s, as the music often represents deeply a coming-of-age feeling, which is what the central theme of this movie is. Beyond this, the incidental music was created by Mark Mothersbaugh, perhaps best known as the frontman of the New Wave band Devo, who was heavily involved in the making of the film. The soundtrack is available from Polygram Records and is still in wide distribution.
1. Hardest Geometry Problem In The World - Mark Mothersbaugh
2. Making Time - Creation
3. Concrete & Clay - Unit 4 + 2
4. Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worryin' Bout That Girl - The Kinks
5. Sharp Little Guy - Mark Mothersbaugh
6. The Lad With The Silver Button - Mark Mothersbaugh
7. A Summer Song - Chad & Jeremy
8. Edward Appleby (In Memoriam) - Mark Mothersbaugh
9. Here Comes My Baby - Cat Stevens
10. A Quick One While He's Away - The Who
11. Snowflake Music From Bottlerocket - Mark Mothersbaugh
12. Piranhas Are A Very Tricky Species - Mark Mothersbaugh
13. Blinuet - Zoot Sims Handy
14. Friends Like You, Who Needs Friends - Mark Mothersbaugh
15. Rue St. Vincent - Yves Montand Aristide
16. Kite Flying Society - Mark Mothersbaugh
17. The Wind - Cat Stevens
18. Oh Yoko - John Lennon
19. Ooh La La - The Faces
20. Margaret Yang's Theme - Mark Mothersbaugh
The Criterion Collection Special Features
The Criterion Collection DVD release of Rushmore contains a number of special features, which are described below.
Audio commentary by Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman. As with most DVD audio commentaries, you can choose to watch the film with this audio commentary track, which is played over the softened regular audio of the film. Owen Wilson is particularly amusing throughout the commentary, which is overall pretty entertaining if you've seen Bottle Rocket as well (Anderson and Wilson's first film).
The Making of Rushmore is a documentary by Eric Chase Anderson (Wes's brother) about, well, the making of Rushmore. It's quite detailed and nicely done, putting the film in an overall context rather than just showing clips from a day or two on the set as many "making of" documentaries are. It very nicely covers the principal players in the film and the general flow and creative process of Rushmore, although a bit short at only 17 minutes.
Max Fischer Players Present... These are three short interpretations of films popular in 1998 done in the style of the plays done in Rushmore. Among these,
Armageddon is probably the best film summary of the three, as it pretty much sums up the entire premise of the film in about a minute.
Out of Sight pokes fun at the lack of skillful dialogue in the film and the *ahem* technical flaws in the source film.
The Truman Show is a comical meshing of the key scenes of the entire movie (the piece falling from the "sky," Truman's distrust of his wife, the tornado, the director's arrogance) all together into a single one-minute scene.
The Charlie Rose Interviews with Wes Anderson and Bill Murray comes from Charlie Rose's own television show. These interviews are probably the best thing included on this special edition, as Rose has a knack for interviewing and making it quite watchable, mostly due to the fact that both sides seem to devolve into much more of a conversational style. The material doesn't strictly stick to Rushmore, but it is unquestionably interesting material.
Also included are film to storyboard comparisons, some other storyboard materials as well as miscellany from the film, and the theatrical trailer.
Some Analysis: Rushmore's Impact On Me
Although there is a great deal of difference between the two of us, I identified greatly with Max in this film, as he seems to address many of the issues I had to deal with in that stage of life. Mostly, Max has a hard time with dealing with other people and the expression of this comes through in most of his interactions with others.
Take the relationship between Max and his father. Max's father is pretty much the definition of an ideal father, but yet there seems to be a large distance between the two of them much of the time, mostly because the two have vastly different perspectives on life. The civility and respect between the two of them, along with a deep-seeded caring, keeps them getting along with one another, but Max seems to be missing a true inspiration, in this case, his mother, who died.
So how does Max handle this? In my eyes, he tries to find surrogate parents in Herman and Rosemary, who turn out very differently. Most of the time, it seems as though it is Herman that is looking up to Max for direction. Both men are at stages in life that are clearly crossroads; where can they go next? Are they failures? Max looks to Herman for a bit of direction, but Herman needs that same sort of direction.
Rosemary, on the other hand, isn't exactly emotionally stable herself. She hasn't given up grieving for the husband she lost, but yet she doesn't exactly reject the interest of Max or Herman as she might have. In fact, she seems to take an amusement from the two men rather than providing any sort of emotional balance for them and when this comes to a head, she reacts by hiding from them (i.e., not showing up to the aquarium groundbreakings and also when she leaves Rushmore).
So, Max's attempts at finding direction fail miserably, as mine did at about the same age. Yet, both Max and myself find direction in a place least expected. In Max's case, it is from Dirk and Margaret.
Throughout the film, Dirk is in essence Max's conscience, as he is at Max's side guiding him towards right and away from wrong (with rocks, if need be). Margaret, on the other hand, becomes his muse and inspiration; once he begins to bond with her, Heaven and Hell (his seeming opus) comes together. Note that Rosemary is NOT his inspiration, though he wants her to be; she brings him down a path of confusion.
So, the guiding "parents" that Max was looking for weren't Herman and Rosemary as he seemed to hope, but in fact Dirk and Margaret. They provide the balances in his life at the end and help keep him on his journey. In much the same way, I found the pillars of my life in places I did not expect until I had already come to rest upon them.
That's what Rushmore is: a journey.