Volume 92, Issue 81
Wednesday, March 3, 1999
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Schwartzman and Murray are mountainous
Photos by Van Redin
By Anthony Turow
Rushmore is a charming comedy which reinforces the old maxim all's fair in love and war.
Geeky 15-year-old Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) loves Rushmore Academy. He devotes every minute of his spare time to extracurricular activities at the expense of good grades. Not just a few clubs either, as Max voraciously joins whatever he can find, holding such titles as president of the bee keepers' club and alternate on the wrestling team.
He's even started his own theatre group, The Max Fischer Players, staging hilariously accurate recreations of films like Serpico, complete with faux explosions and gunfire. These straight-faced productions are one of the giddy highlights of the film.
One day Max meets wealthy steel magnate Mr. Blume (Bill Murray), a benefactor of the school. A bit of an oddball himself, Blume immediately feels a kinship towards Max and they become friends. Blume sees more of himself in Max than he does in his oafish twin sons.
Things go swimmingly between the two until they both develop eyes for Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), the beautiful Grade 1 teacher. Then it's every man for himself, with Max initiating the battle for her affection.
The depths to which Blume and Max stoop are wickedly funny, with plot turns alternately unexpected and wildly inspired. Credit director Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket), who co-wrote with Owen Wilson, for exercising restraint in the midst of some very farcical proceedings. By making style take a back seat to substance, Anderson allows the source material to shine by employing some very capable actors, allowing them to chew the scenery.
Murray is at the top of his game as Blume. The normal Murray persona is underlined with a lingering sense of pathos; he moves beyond being an eccentric goof to a completely miserable one.
Even more fascinating is the way Murray creates such a finely nuanced performance. We learn more about Blume through his mannerisms than pages of dialogue could ever reveal the way he chokes his son in the back seat while driving, his inclination to smoke two cigarettes at once or the drunken dive into his swimming pool in front of horrified onlookers. Although successful in business, he's a failure in life, consumed by regret. Foremost, he's damn funny.
Schwartzman makes his acting debut as Max. He projects a fiery intensity wholly believable for a kid who was granted a scholarship in Grade 2 for writing a one act play about Watergate.
The self-confidence Schwartzman projects as Max defines him perfectly as a character oblivious to how others perceive him. While many consider him an over-achieving dweeb, Max sees himself as an artist, a visionary and everything else in between. The most remarkable feat Schwartzman accomplishes is managing to not let Max become too obnoxious. He still comes across as a bit of an idiot, but he's such a startling original that we can't help but watch and sympathize.
Rushmore also looks and sounds great. In terms of visuals it is reminiscent of classic '60s comedies like The Graduate, while the soundtrack is a mixture of hits and rarities from British invasion-era artists. The film stands out from the pack as smart and funny without a trace of cynicism.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999