Rushmore (1998), directed by Wes Anderson, Spine #65 of the Criterion Collection.
What is quite noticeable about the characters of Rushmore is that they all act very childlike. Not like those innocent babies that still drool on themselves, but rather those teenagers that impulsively act and consequently pout if they do not get what they want. And what is it that they want? Freud said everything went back to sex. In Rushmore, this seems to be no less true.
Max Fischer, our main character, is a 15-year-old prep school student at Rushmore Academy involved with every after-school club or organization. Along comes a new teacher, Miss Cross, that he instantly falls in love with. Why he’s attracted to her, much less what he would do with her in an intimate relationship is never made clear. All he knows is that he wants her and looks to impress her with all his awards, honors and projects. Eventually, a rival enters: a middle-aged well-to-do, Herman Blume, who initially befriends Max then uses Max to get to Miss Cross. What ensues is an uncompromising, immature “fight” between the student and the well-to-do (played by Bill Murray) that culminates in neither one getting what they want.
The problem is that neither Max nor Herman are likeable. Their quirky drive initially makes them good friends and attractive to the audience, yet their egos and instinctual impulses turn one against the other and the audience against both. The filmmakers’ decision for objectified camerawork and stilted acting only furthers the audience’s dislike for the characters. And why should the audience like them?
A major problem with today’s culture is that people want everything but do not want to think about or suffer the consequences of their desires. All take, and no give. We want good schools, good healthcare and good roads, but we don’t want to pay taxes. We want to be skinny and healthy, yet we still want to be able to eat McDonald’s and avoid exercise. We want to be smart and worldly, however we won’t take the time to pick up a book. Instead we’ll whip out our iPhone and search Google or Wiki.
The characters of Rushmore are all take, and no give. Yet are the characters of the film working to expose the deficiencies of our modern culture, or are they merely a product of that culture? Unfortunately, my gut tells me the latter.
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