Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

"What gives this film an edge over conventional rites-of-passage movies is its oddity."

After a spate of high school comedies, it is time to go private. Rushmore Academy has the privilege and traditions of a tony estabishment. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), however, is a 15-year-old scholarship boy, son of a barber (Seymour Cassel), who spends so much time organising extra-curricular activities, such as the Astronomy Club and the Double-team Dodgeball Society, as well as writing for and directing the Max Fischer Players, that his grades have suffered a terminal decline. The headmaster (Brian Cox) tells him to shape up, or else.

Max knows what "or else" means. He loves Rushmore. And he loves Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), a first grade teacher, with a dead husband. He meets a millionaire Vietnam vet, called Mr Blume (Bill Murray), whose hateful twin sons are also at the school. This man is as disturbed as Max is obsessive. They become friends, until Max discovers that Blume is also infatuated with Miss Cox.

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What gives this film an edge over conventional rites-of-passage movies is its oddity. Schwartzman is a drummer in a rock band. After 1800 auditions and with less than a month before writer/director Wes Anderson was due to start shooting, they still had no Max, And then someone met Schwartzman at a party in LA. He is not an actor. He is simply perfect for the role - small, nerdish, sharp as a knife, with Buddy Holly specs and a personality that suggests alien abduction.

The structure feels wonky, as in real life, and doesn't know where to go. Blume has escaped from a circus by the look of him and is a most unexpected industrialist. Murray makes the most of what is little more than a support role, honing his Buster Keaton style to the merest twitch of an eyelid. Rushmore is an acquired taste. What begins as a sideways attack on private education, ends as a lament to unrequited love. If there is any justice, Schwartzman will become the next Rick Moranis and make Honey, I Wrecked The Kids.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Comic look at life in a private school.
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Director: Wes Anderson

Writer: Wes Anderson

Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Seymour Cassel, Brian Cox, Mason Gamble, Sara Tanaka, Stephen McCole, Connie Nielsen, Luke Wilson, Dipak Pallana

Year: 1998

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: USA

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