This story about the misery that comes from the grandiosity and humiliation during adolescence is probably of more interest to adults than to the teens who are already only too aware of those experiences. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is a 10th grader on scholarship at the tony private school Rushmore Academy. His passionate devotion to the school is demonstrated by his frenetic participation in every possible extra-curricular activity, including the staging of his elaborate (if derivative) plays. His grades, however, are close to disastrous, and the headmaster tells him that if they do not improve, he will be expelled.
Max develops a crush on one of the teachers at the school, a beautiful young widow. And he forms a close alliance with Blume, a wealthy alumnus of the school (Bill Murray), a man who is drawn to Max’s passions, and even acts as a go-between for Max’s absurd attempt at courtship, until he himself becomes attracted to the teacher.
All three main characters are feeling a sense of loss. Blume and the teacher seem stuck. Max, with his collision of adult and childish emotions, comes up with one hopeless scheme after another to attract attention and respect, ignoring the genuine opportunities for real friendship that are presented to him. He lies about receiving sexual favors from another student’s mother. He tells people his father is a brain surgeon instead of a barber. He decides that what will solve his problems is getting Blume to spend $8 million on an acquarium for the school, located on the school’s playing field. He gets drunk and insults the teacher’s date. He even risks killing Blume. Yet somehow, he manages to keep working toward his dreams, and even to make a few of them come true.
This is not a movie in which people learn great lessons and are drawn closer together. This is a movie in which a lot of hurt people grope toward something that even they cannot quite visualize. Its appeal is in its quirky characters and in its moments of humor and perception.
Parental concerns include very strong language and sexual references as well as extremely reckless and destructive behavior.