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Rushmore (1998)

Rushmore. Feature film. (1998, 93 mins) IMDB

...Not your typical high school with teenagers movie....

I

saw this movie ages ago when it first came out and I didn't remember anything about it. Nothing. Not one scene. Not one line of dialogue--although I read that the line "Yeah, I was in the shit." was ranked in a Top 100 list of movie lines. The shit in this instance was Bill Murray's character confirming he was in Vietnam, in battle, in the shit.

The title of the film comes from the name of a high school. Rushmore Academy. It's a private school with wood-panelled rooms, carved stone walls, uniforms, all male. It seemed right to me because that's the sort of school I went to. St. Jerome's Private High School. All boys, wore uniforms, almost all the teachers were male. However, my high school was rundown and would close in 1990. The public high school they show, the type often seen in movies and TV seemed alien to me because it's not what I experienced.

The story focuses on Max Fischer. He is unlike his fellow students in many ways. He wears a full uniform with blazer and tie--the only one to do so. He's active in every extra-curricular club possible, but not much of an athlete. He writes plays. His father is a widower and poor--a lifetime barber content with his space in life. The only reason Max can afford to attend the school is a scholarship based on his playwriting and that scholarship is in jeopardy early in the story because he has neglected his school work in favour of other activities. He's flunking out and it isn't long before he's expelled and forced to attend the dreary public school.

Thankfully the film doesn't take the obvious route of him being bullied or humiliated at the public school. The focus is on Rushmore.

Bill Murray is a father and business owner. He runs some type of steel fabrication operation. He has two sons attending the school. They are both jocks--vulgar and stupid. He's wife cheats on him. He's completely disinterested in life--just going through the motions. It's an early version of the role he played in LOST IN TRANSLATION.

Early in the film he gives a speech at the school. Nobody could care what he says except for Max who jumps to his feet at the end to applaud and clap. The two hit it off. They become friends.

Olivia Williams plays the lovely young school teacher just arrived from somewhere else. By coincidence, Max meets her and falls in love. He spends a lot of time trying to win her over even though he's 15 and she's 25 plus. He does stupid things in his attempt to win her over like faking an injury to garner sympathy. And, since she's into aquatic life (a tic of Wes Anderson), he plans to build a giant aquarium on the baseball field. He proceeds as if a construction manager and gets into more trouble with the school.

To complicate matters, Mr. Blume (Murray) meets and falls in love with Miss Cross. The love triangle is set and it break-ups the friendship.

Max gets around on a bicycle. Blume drives a Bentley. There's a scene, during which they are at war, were Blume cuts the lock on Max's bike, sets it on the road and drives over it.

In Act III, Blume begins the process of divorcing his wife, but the relationship with Miss Cross doesn't last. Max realizes he can't have a relationship with Cross. He turns to an Asian classmate who liked him and whom he ignored.

The film ends with the opening night production of one of his plays. It's a gritty, action piece set in Vietnam complete with miniature helicopters and planes flying past in the background. Explosions. Gun fire. Quite a set design and production for a high school performance.

As far as high school, teenager movies, this film is far better than most, but I can't say I laughed a great. No, but I was interested in what this goof ball would do next.

Posted 2009/02/21 at 16h22ET in Movie Commentary.

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