directed by Wes Anderson
Touchstone, 1998

Max Fischer is a 15-year-old Rushmore senior majoring in extracurricular activities and minoring in academic probation. Herman Blume is a millionaire industrialist with a talent for childishness that surpasses even Max's.

Rosemary Cross is a talented first-year Rushmore teacher who provides Fischer and Blume with a common bond and a constant irritant. And Margaret Yang is a classmate of Fischer's who has even more plans for Fischer than Fischer does, though Fischer is clearly reluctant to sign on to them.

What they do over the course of 93 offbeat minutes is the stuff of Rushmore, a film that's as funny as it is original, but never lets humor get in the way of its heart.

The laughs begin at the very beginning, as Blume (Bill Murray), a Rushmore parent and benefactor, offers this inspirational message to the less well-endowed students at the exclusive private school: "Take dead aim on the rich boys, get them in the cross hairs and take them down."

But those aren't the only words that make an impression on Fischer (Jason Schwartzman). He's equally impressed by a Jacques Cousteau quote scrawled in the margin of a library book: "When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself."

Fischer traces the scrawl to Cross (Olivia Williams), who immediately becomes the object of his affections. Unfortunately, his campaign to win her love by building an aquarium on the school's baseball field leads to his expulsion -- and a revenge tragedy worthy of Titus Andronicus targeted at Blume, who also has become enamored of Miss Cross.

But nothing in Rushmore is so simple as tit-for-tat. Before long, half the school is caught up in Fischer's and Blume's attempts to do in one another, and ultimately it's up to Fischer, with his odd ability to bring people together -- if only to oppose him -- to begin the healing process.

The success of Rushmore hinges on a few performances. Fortunately, those performances are all top-notch, beginning with Schwartzman's. He's as resourceful as a Loony Tune character and almost as irritating, whether he's directing his original stage production of Serpico or breaking ground for an aquarium for which he has neither the money nor a permit.

Murray is just as effective as the even-tempered if somewhat unbalanced Blume, who avenges himself on Fischer by running over his bicycle. His talent for becoming unhinged without becoming unfunny is put to good use here.

But Williams tops both of them as that rare object of affection who's truly worthy of the affection. It would be hard to imagine Fischer and Blume not falling in love with her, or not fighting to hang on to her.

Finally, there's the less obvious performance of writer-director-producer Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket), who managed to keep all these oddly balanced balls up in the air for 93 minutes. Somewhere along the way, Anderson had an extraordinary idea. Fortunately for us, he did not keep it to himself.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]

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