USA 1998

Film still for Rushmore

Reviewed by Richard Kelly


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Fifteen-year-old Max Fischer is one of the worst students at Rushmore, a prestigious private school. His extracurricular activities lead headmaster Doctor Guggenheim to threaten him with expulsion. Max befriends unhappy industrialist Herman Blume, the school's principal benefactor, then becomes besotted with widowed first-grade teacher Rosemary Cross.

After the premiere of his new play, Max dines with Blume and Rosemary, drunkenly insults her date, and unsuccessfully declares his love. Funded by Blume, Max attempts to build an aquarium in Rosemary's honour on the school's baseball diamond and is consequently expelled.

He enrols at neighbouring Grover Cleveland High, persuades Rosemary to tutor him privately, and ignores the overtures of fellow student Margaret Yang. Blume and Rosemary fall in love. Max's friend Dirk alerts him, and Max informs Blume's wife, who sues for divorce. Max and Blume engage in tit-for-tat hostilities until Max is arrested. Guggenheim has a stroke and, visiting him, Max learns that Rosemary has dumped Blume. Max initiates a truce and convinces Blume to build the aquarium. Rosemary is unconvinced, so Max arranges for her reunion with Blume at the premiere of his new play Heaven and Hell. At the party afterwards, Max and Margaret become an item.


Texan director Wes Anderson and his writing partner Owen Wilson are two of the best things to happen to American film this decade. They first kicked up dust with Bottle Rocket (1996), a low-budget gem which still awaits a UK release. Like Bottle Rocket, Rushmore has three utterly distinctive strengths: a protagonist possessed of unsettling self-assurance, a lovely way with romance, and an inspired soundtrack of offbeat rock and pop.

Bottle Rocket is propelled by Dignan (played by Owen Wilson), an irrepressible borderline psychopath consumed by the pipedream of organising his shiftless pals into a crew of thieves. Rushmore's mettlesome Max Fischer is cut from some of the same cloth: he's "no cynic, no quitter". In Bottle Rocket, love blooms winningly between big, amiable Anthony (played by Wilson's brother Luke) and a lithe Paraguayan motel maid called Inez (Lumi Cavazos). The heart of Rushmore, meanwhile, is the beautifully tentative affair between melancholy Blume and luminous Miss Cross; the courtship of Max and daffy Korean ingénue Margaret Yang is an added treat.

Both films create a plausible yet off-kilter universe; evidently a shared dramatic sensibility is at work. The perks and pitfalls of precocity seem to obsess Anderson and Wilson: their recurrent scene is that of an adult in serious discussion with a preternaturally alert child. In Bottle Rocket, twentysomething Anthony is lectured by his grave prepubescent sister ("What's going to happen to you, Anthony?"). Here, Blume's infidelity earns him a stiff rebuke ("You're a married man, Blume") from Max's chapel partner Dirk, who looks all of 11.

Of course, Max Fischer is himself a compendium of prodigious tendencies, and gives the film a breakneck energy in its first half. But just as we suspect Anderson and Wilson might be overly enamoured of Max, he comes awfully unstuck, and Miss Cross is forced to rebuff him in smarting fashion ("What do you really think is going to happen between us? Do you think we're going to have sex?"). Max's subsequent blue period is the only point where the picture isn't wholly tight, but Bill Murray's Blume is always there for ballast, his wounded mid-life winces seeming to issue from a deep well. "Hey, are you okay?", Max asks him, beginning to sense how real love and real loss might bite. "Oh," Blume murmurs, "I'm a little bit lonely these days." The finale sees Rushmore's slender reality yielding once more to Max's fantasy; but clearly for these young film-makers, that's the point, as underlined in the chorus of the Faces' joyous 'Ooh La-La' which closes the show ("I wish that I knew what I know now / when I was younger").

The cast are all terrific. Jason Schwartzman rises to the challenge of Max with unnerving excellence; Olivia Williams is exquisite as Miss Cross; Murray, for whom Anderson and Wilson wrote the role of Blume, is sublime. Further down the list, Anderson shows every sign of building a repertory company: there are pitch-perfect turns from Deepak Pallana, Kumar Pallana and Andrew Wilson (yes, another brother). Director of photography Robert Yeoman (Rampage, Drugstore Cowboy) has also carried on from Bottle Rocket, as have editor David Moritz, designer David Wasco and costumer Karen Patch: these too look to be fruitful collaborations.

Rushmore is made to be treasured: it feels like an immediate American classic. As a director of wry, wistful, deceptively simple, sharp-edged comedy, Anderson has quickly ascended to the kind of plateau Elaine May reached after her knockout one-two of A New Leaf (1970) and The Heartbreak Kid (1972). Of course, May only directed twice more in the subsequent three decades, proving too smart for her own good. Here's hoping Anderson, Wilson and their happy band know where they're headed next.


Barry Mendel
Paul Schiff
Wes Anderson
Owen Wilson
Director of Photography
Robert Yeoman
David Moritz
Production Designer
David Wasco
Mark Mothersbaugh
©Touchstone Pictures
Production Companies
Touchstone Pictures presents an American Empirical Pictures/Barry Mendel production
Executive Producers
Wes Anderson
Owen Wilson
John Cameron
Production Supervisor
Christine Fransen
Production Co-ordinator
Melissa Wiechmann
Unit Production Manager
John Cameron
Locations Manager
Craig Allen Busch
Assistant Directors
Michael Cedar
Conte Matal
Donald W. Murphy
Script Supervisor
Scott Peterson
Mary Gail Artz
Barbara Cohen
Debra Secher
Liz Keigley
Juel Bestrop
Debra Zane
Special Effects Co-ordinator
Ron Trost
Mark van Stone
Halo Productions
David Ridlen
Art Director
Andrew Laws
Set Designer
Daniel Bradford
Set Decorator
Alexandra Reynolds-Wasco
Costume Designer
Karen Patch
Costume Supervisor
Catherine Allen Busch
Key Hair/Make-up
Robert W. Harper
Sally J. Harper
Hair/Make-up Stylist
Theresa Harper
Prosthetic Make-up
Bart J. Mixon
Pacific Title
Music Supervisor
Randy Poster
Executive in Charge of Music, Walt Disney Motion Picture Group
Kathy Nelson
Music Co-ordinator
Chris Parker
Music Editor
Michael Baber
Score Recordist
Robert Casale
"Making Time" by Edwin Michael Phillips, Kenneth George Pickett, performed by Creation; "Take Ten" by/performed by Paul Desmond; "Concrete and Clay" by Tommy Moeller, Brian Parker, performed by Unit 4 + 2; "Nothin' in This World Can Stop Me Worryin' 'Bout That Girl" by Ray Davies, performed by The Kinks; "A Summer Song" by David Stuart, Clive Metcalf, Keith Noble, performed by Chad & Jeremy; "Blinuet" by George Handy, performed by Zoot Sims; "Here Comes My Baby", "The Wind" by/performed by Cat Stevens; "Jersey Thursday" by/performed by Donovan Leitch; "A Quick One While He's Away" by Pete Townshend, performed by The Who; "I Am Waiting" by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, performed by The Rolling Stones; "Snowflake Music" by/performed by Mark Mothersbaugh; "Rue St. Vincent" by Bruant Aristide, performed by Yves Montand; "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" performed by The Vince Guaraldi Trio; "Oh Yoko" by/performed by John Lennon; "Manoir de mes rêves" by/performed by Django Reinhardt; "Ooh La La" by Ron Wood, Ron Lane, performed by The Faces
Sound Mixer
Pawel Wdowczak
Supervising Re-recording Mixer
Mark Berger
Re-recording Mixer
Michael Semanick
Re-recording Room Supervisor
Grant Foerster
Supervising Sound Editor
John Nutt
Dialogue Editor
David Franklin Bergad
Sound Effects Designer
Kyrsten Mate Comoglio
Sound Effects Editor
Aura Gilge
Additional Voices:
Loop Troop
Doc Kane
Loop Group Editor:
Larry Mann
Margie O'Malley
Marnie Moore
Frank Rinella
Steven Fontano
Malcolm Fife
Stunt Co-ordinator
David Sanders
Animal Wrangler
Doug Terranova
Bee Wranglers
Kalen Hoyle
Michael R. Wohlfeld
Dog Trainer
Renee Roth
Bill Murray
Herman Blume
Olivia Williams
Rosemary Cross
Jason Schwartzman
Max Fischer
Seymour Cassel
Bert Fischer
Brian Cox
Doctor Guggenheim
Mason Gamble
Dirk Calloway
Sara Tanaka
Margaret Yang
Stephen McCole
Magnus Buchan
Ronnie McCawley
Ronny Blume
Keith McCawley
Donny Blume
Connie Nielsen
Mrs Calloway
Kim Terry
Mrs Blume
Luke Wilson
Dr Peter Flynn
Deepak Pallana
Mr Adams
Andrew Wilson
Coach Beck
Marietta Marich
Mrs Guggenheim
Hae Joon Lee
Adebayo Asabi
Mr Obiamiwe
Al Fielder
Colin Platt
boy portraying Frank Serpico
George Farish
Francis Fernandez
McCauley Pendergast
Eric Weems
Dalton Tomlin
Wally Wolodarsky
Ella Pryor
woman backstage
Paul Schiff
Antoni Scarano
small boy artist
Brian Tenenbaum
Thayer McClanahan
school reporter
Patricia Winkler
Mrs Whitney
Manning Mott
Mr Holstead
J.J. Stonebraker
Donny Caicedo
40 Ounce
Ali Ktiri
Michael Maggart
Robbie Lee
Morgan Redmond
Ed Geldart
security guard
David Moritz
dynamite salesman
J.J. Killalea
Tommy Stalling
William Lau
Mr Yang
Lucille Sadikin
Mrs Yang
Steve Eckelman
tennis pro
Eric Anderson
Danny Fine
Coach Fritz
Kyle Ryan Urquhart
Kumar Pallana
Mr LittleJeans
Stephen Dignan
Buena Vista International (UK)
8,339 feet
92 minutes 40 seconds
SDDS/Dolby digital/Digitsl DTS sound
In Colour
Anamorphic [Panavision]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011