Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The First 15 Minutes Project: Max Fischer in Rushmore

Our first three heroes just wanted to fit in and survive their dreaded high school experience. Now let’s look at someone who has no interest in fitting in or leaving high school.
  1. Sprightly harpsichord music plays while titles appear against curtains. 
  2. Curtains part, revealing Rushmore sign on side of school.
  3. Cut to math class inside school. Teacher assigns complex problem. A student asks about another problem on the side board. “That’s the hardest geometry problem in the world. I guess if anyone here could solve that problem, I’d see to it that everyone here would never have to open another text book for the rest of their lives.” They all whisper to each other about how awesome that would be, then turn back to a guy in the back of the room, the only one wearing the school blazer, who’s reading a newspaper. The teacher says “Max, would you care to try it?” Max looks over his paper, “I’m sorry, did someone say my name?” They all laugh. Sipping coffee out of a china cup, Max goes up the board. The teacher tosses him the chalk and he catches it heroically. Max solves the problem handily. The rest of the students lift him up on their shoulders while they cheer.
  4. Max is woken up by his friend Dirk, after having fallen asleep in the school’s chapel, where all the kids are gathered to hear a talk by Mr. Blume, the father of two students. “You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up, but I send my kids here, because the fact is that you guys go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore.” Max’s friend leans over to talk to him but Max holds up two fingers to stop him and then leans in to listen to the speech… “Now, to some of you, it doesn’t matter. You were born rich and you’re going to stay rich.” We see Blume’s speech, written out in front of him, neatly typed on a typewriter. “But here’s my advice to the rest of you. Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down.” Max writes in his a Hymnal, in florid penmanship: “Rushmore – best school in country, Rich kids – bad?, This guy – best chapel speaker I have ever seen.” Blume continues: “Just remember, they can buy anything, but they can’t buy backbone. Don’t let them forget that. Thank you.” Only Max stands up and applauds (once again, he’s the only one in the school blazer, so that was one true thing in the fantasy)
  5. Blume leaves, talking to the headmaster Dr. Guggenheim about how he wished the students gave a shit. Max come us and overly-familiarly says hi to Dr. Guggenheim, then introduces himself to Blume, trying to sound like a fellow-40-year-old when he says “Y’know I really think you’re right about Rushmore…”, then he leaves. Blume says to Guggenheim: “Sharp little guy.” Guggenheim responds: “He’s one of the worst students we’ve got.” Blume smiles.
  6. Funny montage of all the clubs Max has either founded or leads, including the bee keepers and the Max Fischer players.
  7. Another curtain says “September.” The curtain parts. Max is meeting with Dr. Guggenheim, who immediately tells him, “We’re putting you on what we call sudden death academic probation.” “And what does that entail?” “It entails that if you fail another class, you’ll be asked to leave Rushmore.” “In other words I’ll be expelled.” “That’s correct.” “Can I see some documentation on that?” Guggenheim hands over his transcript. “Too many extracurricular activities, Max, not enough studying.” “Dr. Guggenheim, I don’t want to tell you how to do your job, but the fact is that no matter how hard I try, I still might flunk another class. If that means that I have to stay on for a post-graduate year then so be it.” “We don’t offer a post-graduate year.” “Well, we don’t offer it yet.” “Just bring up the grades.” “You remember how I got into this school?” “Yes. You wrote a play.” “That’s right, second grade, a little one-act about Watergate.” The discuss how Max’s late mother got him in. Max asks if he can just coast by for old time’s sake, but Guggenheim says no.
  8. Max leaves, trailed by Dirk, saying they want to kick him out. What are you gonna do? “The only thing I can do. Try to pull some strings with the administration, I guess.” 
  9. Later, Max is at a meeting of his Backgammon club with its only other member. The member tells him that the school is ending Latin and Max is glad to hear it. Max is reading a Jacques Cousteau book as he plays. He sees that someone has hand-written in an extra Cousteau quote: “When one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself.” He excuses himself and asks to see a list of everyone who checked out the book. The priest-librarian asks why. Max shows him the quote. The librarian is impressed and agrees to help.
  10. Max has a listing in his hand. He arrives at a Kindergarten class and sees a beautiful woman reading “Kidnapped” to her class. He props open the door to hear her read in a beautiful English accent. He’s smitten.
  11. After school, Max tries to hit on Dirk’s mom.  When Dirk arrives, Max asks, “How’d your math test go?” “What math test?” “Didn’t you have a math test?” “No.” We realize that Max is only friends with Dirk to get to his mom.  Max runs over to talk to Blume, but he’s too smitten to say anything. Finally Blume asks “What’s the secret, Max? You seem to have it pretty figured out.” “Well, I think you’ve just got to find something you like to do and then do it for the rest of your life. For me, it’s going to Rushmore.” Blume realizes that Max is actually pretty screwed up. Blume’s bully-ish sons come and get in the car, pushing Max over.
  12. Blume drives them home. “Did you invite that kid to your party?” “Max Fischer, are you kidding? There’s going to be girls there. Get your head out of your ass.” 
  13. Max walks home across campus, giving a friendly back-pat to the Indian janitor, Mr. Littlejean. 
  14. Max rides his bike to a barbershop. Only when his haircut is done do we realize that the barber is his dad. He shows his dad a test with a “37” on it, but the dad cheerily turns it into an 87. Max tries to talk about his problems, but his dad is too forgiving of his failings.
  15. The teacher is reading on the bleachers and looking for a light for her cigarette. He swoops in and lights it, then goes to the far end of the bleachers to read “The Powers that Be” by David Halberstam. He has a simulation of an adult conversation with her. She went to Harvard. The top schools that he wants to apply to are Oxford and the Sorbonne, but his safety’s Harvard. He mentions that the school is ending Latin and she says that that’s a shame.  They exchange Latin quotations. He charms her, introduces himself, then sits reading next to her.   She’s charmed and baffled.
  16. Max starts a petition drive to re-introduce Latin. Latin is now required for everyone. 
  17. Max watches a wrestling match featuring Blume’s sons. Max tells Mr. Blume that his father is a neurosurgeon. Later, he asks Blume, “You were in Vietnam if I’m not mistaken?” “Yeah.” “Were you in the shit?” “Yeah, I was in the shit.”  Blume is shocked to learn that Max is also on the team.
  18. At his sons’ birthday party, Blume tries to sink down to the bottom of the pool.
  19. Max shows up to tell the teacher that he restored Latin for her.


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