Rushmore

* * *

No, this is not a film about the famous South Dakota presidential monument. Rather, Rushmore is a unique comedy about two somewhat obnoxious, but endearing, characters and their quest for happiness.

Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is one of the most outgoing students at Rushmore Academy. He is involved in every club and group that the school offers, and has single-handedly established many more. However, despite his astounding extra-curricular efforts, academically he is also one of the worst students in Rushmore's history.

Max's latest project involves a new first grade teacher at Rushmore Academy, Miss Cross (Olivia Williams). Max is instantly smitten with her and, ignoring the age difference, sets out to woo her with all his resources.

To help out, Max enlists the aid of both his young protege (Mason Gamble) and a kindred spirit, the tycoon Herman Blume (Bill Murray). Herman, despite having amassed a great fortune, is surrounded by unhappiness. He has an unloving relationship with his wife, and he detests his two obnoxious sons (who happen to be classmate of Max). Max's unbridled enthusiasm and determination makes Herman feel alive again. And the presence of Miss Cross stirs up other, long-dormant, emotions within him...emotions which may run contrary to Max's plans.

It is rare for a film to create a character as unique and unexpected as Max Fischer. A lesser movie would have simply pegged Max as a misunderstood genius or a goofball loser. However, screenwriters Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson never let us forget Max's central incompetence, yet all the while endowing him with a degree of chutzpah rarely glimpsed before.

Jason Schwartzman is a welcome new face, and tackles the role of Max Fischer with gusto. He's able to go toe to toe with any of the more established actors in the film, and always comes away the winner.

In a more familiar role, Bill Murray is right at home as the unusual millionaire. He never devolves into all-out wackiness, but rather delivers a much more focused performance than he has in years.

As the woman who comes between these two, Olivia Williams has a much more passive role. She simply doesn't have much to do, other than be the object of desire. However, it is a role which she plays well, limited as it is.

With its unique characters and unusual plot, Rushmore is a truly distinctive comedy. It never becomes the sort of film that will have you convulsing with laughter, but it certainly will keep you smiling the whole way through.

[R - language and brief nudity] (Touchstone)


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