A few minutes into Rushmore, Herman Blume (Bill Murray) asks fifteen-year old Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) the secret to how Max seems to have it all together. Max's reply is that one needs to find out what they love, and do it the rest of their lives.
Max's muse is Rushmore Academy, a prestigious private school. Max writes and produces for the Max Fischer Players, organises petitions to keep Latin in the curriculum, and is the head of the fencing team, the debate team, the karate team, the chess club, and the Rushmore beekeepers, among his many activities. As anyone who is familiar with this situation will know, this does not necessarily make for great grades. As a result, Max is on "sudden death" academic probation---one more failing grade and bye bye Rushmore.
Like many people, the opinions of the world matter to him. Everything Max does is motivated by wanting to impress his fellow students. Life becomes complicated when Max comes across a book containing a handwritten quote by Jacques Cousteau. He traces the origin of the quote to an extremely attractive first-grade teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams) and becomes infatuated with her immediately. Rosemary, who is twice Max's age, is attracted to Max but decides she is too old for him and begins dating Max's friend Herman, a wealthy industrialist, on the sly. When Max finds out, he and Herman engage in a series of ever-escalating acts of retribution which culminates in Max being dismissed from Rushmore. Max then goes off to public school where he has to find a new sense of identity and reconcile his relationship with Herman and Rosemary.
Rushmore is an interesting character study. Director Wes Anderson shows that people have good and bad aspects to them and that no one is perfect. None of the protagonists are so pure and innocent that they are beyond playing mean games or just being plain inconsiderate when their emotions take control. The movie has a strong romantic message to it which was a surprise to me, as I expected it to be more about the conflict between Herman and Max. The acting is excellent: Schwartzmann does a great job portraying a geeky Max, and Bill Murray's portrayal of Herman as a resigned adult, who can't possibly capture the energy Max possesses, is excellent. Olivia Williams is an extremely charming Rosemary.
Rushmore doesn't really offer any positive or negative advice for people in Max's position in life. In the end, we're still not sure what Max is going to make of himself in life. Perhaps that's asking too much of a fifteen-year old, but people in Max's shoes aren't going to come away with any answers watching this film.