Rushmore (1998)

How many times have you been asked: “what’s your favorite movie?” How easy is it for you to answer that question? I’d venture to say the more obsessively you consume films, the more difficult this question is to answer. You might even find the question insulting or too vague. There was definitely a time in my life (between eleven and fifteen years old) when the answer was easy (Heathers). As an adult, this question is pretty much nearly impossible to answer with just one film; there are too many amazing films out there that are my favorite in any given moment. However, if I was really, really pressed hard to give one answer, it’s quite possible the answer to that question might be Wes Anderson’s Rushmore.

Words to live by.

Words to live by.

In short, Rushmore is a film about growing up and learning your boundaries. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is one hell of a go-getter; member of almost every club you could imagine (and some you can’t imagine), playwright since seven-years-old, wrestler, lobbyist. He is also failing all of his classes, and hopelessly in love with Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), a schoolteacher at Rushmore. He has a contentious relationship with Dr. Guggenheim (Brian Cox), Rushmore’s headmaster, who warns him if he doesn’t bring the grades up, he’s out, regardless of the fact he wrote a one-act play about Watergate when he was in second grade.

How can Max stay at Rushmore and convince Miss Cross it’s not a bad idea to start a love affair with an awkward fifteen-year-old boy? Perhaps with some help from his newfound friend Harold Blume (Bill Murray), who is so taken with Max’s perseverance and ardor that he offers to fund Max’s crazy idea to build an aquarium at Rushmore in Miss Cross’s name. This, of course, can only end in disaster: Max is booted from the Academy, and Mr. Blume ends up falling for Miss Cross.

It ain't a play 'til someone's nose is bleeding....

It ain’t a play ’til someone’s nose is bleeding….

And so Max has to forge a new relationship with himself. His new home is Grover Cleveland high school, where they require you to have a hall pass to use the pay phones and they don’t even have a fencing team! He’s lost his friends at Rushmore, his dreams about Miss Cross, and has been relegated to small-fish-in-a-big-pond status. Will Max overcome and really ‘make a go of it,’ or will he sulk and mope, lamenting the fact that all his aspirations were nothing but the pipe dreams of a barber’s son?

I’m afraid if I talk too much about Rushmore it’ll come off as gushing, but here goes; I find it to be one of the most subtly funny films I’ve ever seen in my life. Each line is perfectly written and delivered. The performances are, all of them, on point. Who can deny Bill Murray as the sad-sack millionaire; he’s freakin’ brilliant, and that’s all there is to it. And say what you will about Schwartzman, he hits the nail on the head with Max Fischer! Fischer is, undoubtedly, a little snot-nosed shit for most of the movie, but by the end of it he has obviously learned some of life’s harshest lessons, and he’s the better for it, and so are we, dammit! I really wouldn’t change a single thing

Has a role ever been so perfectly played as Bill Murray's Harold Blume?

Has a role ever been so perfectly played as Bill Murray’s Harold Blume?

about this movie. Not a single thing. It pains me to use phrases like ‘heart-warming’ but it’s perfectly apt here. I mean my heart was wearing a sweater by the time the movie was over!

You might think Rushmore a strange choice for one of Schlockwave’s favorite films, given the normal contents you find here. True, it doesn’t exactly fit in with the b-movie sci-fi/horror trash I like so much. That stuff is wonderful(ly terrible), but the honest truth is most of it doesn’t hold up after a handful of views (well, okay, the good ones do, but those are so few and far between!). If we’re talking favorites, that’s important – it’s got to hold up, and not just a year later, or five years later, but, you know… forever. It hasn’t been forever since 1998, but it’s been long enough, and watching Rushmore for the fiftieth time or so hasn’t made it any less charming. In fact, it’s quite the opposite; I feel closer and closer to it every time I watch it. And even though I’ve seen it that many times, it still manages to inspire new emotions in me when I watch it. I mean, this time, it made me cry. Seriously. You don’t like Rushmore? Your heart must be black as coal.


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