Based on the true childhood experiences of Noah Baumbach and his brother, The Squid and the Whale tells the touching story of two young boys dealing with their parents' divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s.
Max Fischer is a precocious 15-year-old whose reason for living is his attendance at Rushmore, a private school where he's not doing well in any of his classes, but where he's the king of extracurricular activities - from being in the beekeeping society to writing and producing plays, there's very little after school he doesn't do. His life begins to change, however, when he finds out he's on academic probation, and when he stumbles into love with Miss Cross, a pretty teacher of the elementary school at Rushmore. Added to the mix is his friendship with Herman Blume, wealthy industrialist and father to boys who attend the school, and who also finds himself attracted to Miss Cross. Max's fate becomes inextricably tied to this odd love triangle, and how he sets about resolving it is the story in the film. Written by
Gary Dickerson <slug@mail. utexas.edu>
Max asks Margaret Yang to remove her glasses, and tells her she looks better without them. While this is a staple of many romantic comedies, it was also used in Rocky, and the girl in glasses was played by Jason Schwartzman's mother, Talia Shire. Max's conversation with the Headmaster, asking to let him stay at Rushmore "for old times' sake," mirrors a similar scene in The Godfather, between Sal Tessio (Abe Vigoda) and Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall). Shire also appeared in that film. Max's play features many similarities to Apocalypse Now which, like The Godfather, was directed by Shire's brother, and Jason's uncle, Francis Ford Coppola. See more »
When Max goes to meet Blume's wife, you can see the camera and crew reflected in the building behind them. See more »
If, and only if, both sides of the numerator is divisible by the inverse of he square root of the two unassigned variable.
Good. Except when the value of the "X" coordinate is equal to or less than the value of one. Yes Isaac?
What about *that* problem?
Oh, that? Don't worry about that.
I just put that up as a joke. That's probably the hardest geometry equation in the world.
Well, how much extra credit is it worth?
Well, considering I've never seen anyone get it right, ...
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Gorgeously faithful evocation of an adolescent's mindset.
Overextended rather than overlong, this is still, along with A BUG'S LIFE, the best American film of the year. Sadly, this has been an atrocious year for movies, so that isn't saying much (being Europeans, we still haven't seen EYES WIDE SHUT or THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, so there's still hope). There has been no outstanding, awe-inspiring, terrifying, beautiful, blow-everything-out-of-the-water film this year, no PULP FICTION, THE USUAL SUSPECTS or HEAVENLY CREATURES. The main problem with new films is style. Because style has been reduced to empty, showy Lelouchisms, intelligent directors, like Solondz or Labute, have rejected style altogether; and their rather flat, dull compositions can detract from the undoubted brilliance of their content.
RUSHMORE has style in spades. RUSHMORE is (on the surface at least) a very intelligent film. It is the kind of film my spouse would dismiss as 'a young man's film', but then so, apparently, was A BOUT DE SOUFFLE. The comparison is not gratuitous. There is a glorious, gleeful, freewheeling joy in cinema here that carries the film for the first hour, reminiscent of the early Nouvelle Vague, and Richard Lester. It's odd how these old devices - and there are also echoes of Chaplin, Keaton, the Marx Brothers, Tati and Woody Allen in here too - should seem so fresh and new. Has cinema stagnated so far? Most modern US (indie) film is stagy, rigid, overcomposed. This film uses all the old tricks to show life being lived, not an imposed thesis.
As I suggested, the film is probably intelligent. I say probably, because this is not its main interest. It does interesting things with Oedipal conflicts - there are at least five father/son relationships in the film (Max/Bert, Max/Dirk, Max/Hermann, Hermann/sons, Max/Edward Appleby), most of which are put under pressure, if not outright hostile, but resolved in unexpected ways. There is the influence of the dead on the living, unwritten stories intruding on those trying to write their own lives. There is the idea of Rushmore as a conservative, Brideshead-like arcadia, wherein also lies betrayal and death. The whole Ivy League (or whatever second level's called over there) system is debunked: whereas Rushmore will accept any trash as long as they're white, Max's multi-racial public school seems a much more vital place.
What is great about this film is not these things, but its understanding of and sympathy for adolescent experience. The most obvious marker of this is self-dramatisation, and there is strong evidence (the theatre curtains that open each section; Max's facility as a playwright; the repetition of portraits and framings within the film) that this is not an 'objective' story, but Max's highly mediated view of his own life. The film is sprightly, energetic, hilarious and inventive when he is on top of life, sluggish and dour when he is depressed. This actually makes his pain even more moving, and why he can sympathise with Hermann throughout on an emotional level, even when he needs to hate him on a narrative one.
Bill Murray gives the year's outstanding performance, which will hopefully be ignored at the Oscars - there is such depth to his angst, such humour to his self-lacerating millionaire, a self-made man who tragically sees himself as a loser. Few actors today can be so heartbreaking while seeming to do so little. And people still think Meryl Streep is an actress.
It is Jason Schwarzmann, though, who must carry the film, and he is perfect
brave, enterprising, irritating, vital. His romantic object is rather a
drip, as adolescent idealisations generally are, and her swearing wake-up call is suitably shocking. Brian Cox is hilarious as a gruff, though sympathetic, headmaster, whose fate again suggests youthful wish-fulfillment. The use of music is as inventive as any great film I've seen. The film is actually quite bleak, and we can only thank our stars that Max isn't a goth - his doomed inventiveness staves of despair. Wonderful.
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