Max Fischer: The secret?
Herman Blume: Yeah, you seem to have it pretty figured out.
Max Fischer: The secret, I don't know... I guess you've just gotta find something you love to do and then... do it for the rest of your life.
Rushmore is a 1998 film by Wes Anderson, starring Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, and Olivia Williams. It follows the exploits of Max Fischer, 15-year-old student at the eponymous academy. He is incredibly bright but scatterbrained, preferring to do extracurricular activities instead of actual schoolwork. He becomes unlikely friends with Herman Blume, a local businessman who is unhappy with his life and becomes inspired by Max's energy.
When a new teacher arrives at Rushmore Academy, Rosemary Cross, an odd Love Triangle develops, with Max hopelessly lusting after Rosemary while she and Herman begin having an affair. The two friends soon become bitter enemies, working to ruin each other's lives. However, since this is a comedy, and not a particularly dark one, the tone remains lighthearted and whimsical throughout.
The movie has a childlike sense of awe and general quirky atmosphere, which went on to become Wes Anderson's signature style. It also allowed Bill Murray to establish himself as a dramatic actor, though he would continue to work with Anderson in later films.
This work contains examples of:
- Bittersweet Ending:Max: At least nobody got hurt.
Rosemary: Except for you.
Max: Nah. I didn't get hurt that bad.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Max has boundless energy for his many hobbies and projects, but is flunking his actual classes.
- Chekhov's Gun: Max's bicycle after Herman runs it over with his car. Max uses it as part of a Wounded Gazelle Gambit to talk to Rosemary.
- Chekhov's Skill: Several of Max's extracurricular activities come into play over the course of the film:
- Director of the Max Fischer Players - The two plays that we see him stage mark important points in the story.
- Rushmore Beekeepers President - During his Escalating War with Herman, he sets a large number of bees loose in Herman's hotel room.
- Trap & Skeet Club Founder - He uses a non-lethal rifle to shoot Magnus in the ear.
- Cock Fight
- Dance Party Ending
- Darkest Hour: “November”
- Death Glare: Max gets a collective one from several students after he gets Latin made a compulsory subject.
- Disproportionate Retribution: During their Escalating War, Herman runs over Max's bicycle. Max's response is to cut the brakes on Herman's car. Luckily, nobody gets hurt.
- Dogged Nice Guy: It’s clear pretty soon after she’s introduced that Margaret Yang is harboring an attraction for Max, but he gives her the cold shoulder in favor of his own infatuation with Ms. Cross. Things get better by the end, though, when he warms up to and eventually begins dating her after getting over Ms. Cross (maybe).
- Elaborate University High: Actually filmed at two real schools in Houston. Rushmore is St. John's in real life, Wes Anderson's alma mater.
- Elevator School
- Enter Stage Window: After learning Blume and Ms. Cross have split up, Max comes to the latter’s second-story window at night and makes up a story about having been hit by a car and needing to use her phone. When she wises up, he leaves the same way he came in.
- Escalating War: Max and Herman's battle gets hilariously out of hand.
- Extracurricular Enthusiast: Max Fischer's extracurricular activities at Rushmore Academy include: Yankee Review editor-in-chief, French Club president, representing Russia in the model UN, Stamp & Coin Club vice-president, debate team captain, Lacrosse team manager, Calligraphy Club president, Astronomy Society founder, fencing team captain, track & field J. V. decathlon, 2nd Chorale choirmaster, bombardment society founder, Kung Fu Club yellow belt, Trap & Skeet Club founder, Rushmore Beekeepers president, Yankee Racers founder, Max Fischer Players director, Backgammon Society founder, a member of the wrestling team, and has 4.5 hours logged with the Piper Cub Club. Yeah, and he saved Latin - what did you ever do?
- High School Hustler
- Hot for Teacher
- Intergenerational Friendship: Max and Herman are probably the trope codifiers.
- Jerkass: Max at times. It gets really bad when Rosemary brings a date to Serpico and Max gets a bit of liquor in him.
- Kid Sidekick: Dirk Calloway is this to Max.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Pretty much every negative thing that happens to Max ultimately stems from his own actions. While some of it is down to his crush on Rosemary overriding his better judgement, a lot more is because he's an egocentric jackass.
- The Lost Lenore: Ms. Cross has her deceased husband, Edward Appleby.
- Modern Major General
- Not So Different: "I always wanted to be in one of your fucking plays."
- Opinion Flip Flop: When Max finds out that Latin is being cancelled, his only disappointment is that it didn't happen earlier when he suggested it. When he meets Rosemary, he tactically changes his opinion with such force that it becomes a required course from the 7th to 12th grades.
- Parody Sue
- Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: At least two. One between Max and Dirk when the latter learns from Magnus that Max has been claiming to have gotten a handjob from Dirk’s mother. This, in turn, kicks off the falling out between Max and Blume when Dirk writes him a letter revealing the affair Blume is having with Ms. Cross.
- Pretentious Latin Motto: "Sic transit gloria", as opposed to "Sic transit gloria mundi".
- Reality Ensues: Nobody can be as much of a self-absorbed asshole as Max without consequences:
- Max decides to press on with the plans to build an aquarium on school grounds despite a lack of permission from the school, and even holds a groundbreaking ceremony where he has several trees cut down. We Smash Cut to him getting expelled.
- As part of his Escalating War with Herman, Max cuts the brakes on his car. Max is reported to the Police and arrested incredibly quickly. Though this is equally subverted by the car hurting no one and doing no damage when Herman can't stop. Instead, it rolls to a gentle stop on one of the lawns outside Rushmore.
- Romantic False Lead: Luke Wilson as Dr. Peter Flynn.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Max's whole attitude while at Rushmore. When he finds out he'll be expelled if he fails one more class, his immediate reaction (after trying to bargain with his teacher) is "I'll pull some strings with the administration".
- Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Max's initial approach to building an aquarium on school grounds. Predictably, he gets expelled for it.
- Among the plays that the Max Fischer Players perform are Serpico, and Oliver Stone's Heaven And Hell. The film also contains many references to The Graduate, Peanuts, Jacques Cousteau and the photography of Jacque Henri Lartigue.
- The Max Fischer Players also produced a number of specially commissioned pieces for the 1999 MTV Awards adapting the biggest films of that year in their own unique, ingenious style. These included Armageddon, Out of Sight and The Truman Show.
- The whole scene in which Max is slightly annoyed that Rosemary brought Dr. Flynn to his dinner might be a shout out to a certain scene in My Left Foot.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Max.
- Snowball Lie: Max starts a few, like how his father is a neurosurgeon or that he got a handjob from Dirk's mom.
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The "you are forgiven" portion of The Who's "A Quick One, While He's Away" plays while Max pulls a series of pranks on Herman, who he believes has betrayed him.
- Transfer Student Uniforms: Max, after he's expelled from Rushmore Academy.
- Triang Relations: Type four.
- Violent Glaswegian: Magnus Buchan.
- With Friends Like These...: Max and Herman.
- Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Max pulls one, claiming to have been hit by a car, to get a chance to talk to Rosemary. Eventually she susses out the blood on his head is fake.