Love and War
All’s fair in love and war, so the saying goes. Rushmore illustrates how obsessive love can lead to war, even among friends. In this dark comedy, a tenth grader and one of the chief benefactors of Rushmore Academy both fall in love with an attractive first-grade teacher.
Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) and Mr. Blume (Bill Murray), a steel tycoon, have developed quite a co-dependency by working together on various school projects. Blume (a walking poster for male mid-life crisis) admires Max’s energy, while Max needs Blume’s money to build an aquarium on the school’s baseball diamond. If there’s anything Max loves more than Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), it’s his alma mater. He is editor of the school newspaper and yearbook, president of the French Club, German Club, Chess Club, Astronomy Club, etc., and director of the Max Fischer Players. After Max gets expelled and discovers that his friend also loves Miss Cross, he goes bonkers -- and the war begins.
Director Wes Anderson and his co-writer Owen Wilson used the Max Fischer character as their impetus for the film’s original script. “There’s something funny about these kinds of characters,” Wilson says. “They don’t have the self-awareness of how they come across to others and how kind of strange they are.”
According to Wilson, “Max Fischer wants to be considered an expert in every conceivable field. He wants to run the whole operation. And he does not allow the fact that he is not very skilled in most of these areas to dampen his enthusiasm or prevent him from trying to dominate all of them.”
Well, you get the idea -- and it’s a very good one indeed. What a shame Schwartzmann lacks enough power to carry this demanding lead role. (One can’t help wishing Rushmore had been made several years earlier with a young Matthew Broderick as its star.) But comedian Murray saves the day. He gives one of the best performances of his career as the romantically challenged Mr. Blume. No one ever doubts Murray’s comic talents, but it’s always a surprise to see the depths of his dramatic ability. He projects a seriocomic intensity here comparable to Charlie Chaplin’s classic Little Tramp.
Fortunately, in addition to Murray’s outstanding work, Rushmore boasts a very funny screenplay as well as valuable insights about the dangers of loving not wisely, but too well.
(Released by Touchstone Pictures and rated “R” by MPAA.)