Saturday, February 11, 2012

Looking To Max Fischer: A Life Lesson From Rushmore (1998)


I spent most of Friday in the office which means that I spent most of my day worrying about how to fit in there.

I pride myself on not wanting to fit in but, really, like everyone, I do desperately want to.

And what I was feeling was not so much culture shock as it was a combination of weariness at my own hesitation -- not wanting to annoy my coworkers, not wanting to be so eager that everyone hates me, not wanting to be the guy who comes in and thinks he's got all the answers -- and a real sense that, no matter how much I may want to, I never can entirely fit in.

As I can't pass for a Chinese person, I think that, on some level, I'll always be a stranger here. That's okay; I've heard as much from other white expats here.

They've explained how they have felt like they could never entirely fit in since they can't blend in.


So how to find your place under those circumstances?

I must admit that there's a little part of me that loves being the different one in a room.

"I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me as a member."

That line resonates with me because I've always been a bit of an outsider for various reasons. I don't mean to be contrary, but it happens sometimes.

And my upcoming job will involve a lot of editing, which means that I'm going to be spending a lot of time correcting errors.

I'm going to be treated like an outsider for that reason alone.

So last night, after thinking about these ideas far too much for a good 8 hours during the day, I went home and watched Rushmore (1998) again.

I don't say this to be contrary to popular opinion now, but it's not Wes Anderson's best film. I still think that Bottle Rocket (1996) is.

In very early 1999, when Rushmore (1998) went into wide release, I can remember being a tiny bit disappointed with the film when I walked out of the theater.

Not that it wasn't a strange sort of masterpiece but that it wasn't Bottle Rocket (1996).

Still, every time I watch Rushmore (1998) it seems like a better film than it did on the previous viewing and, for sure, the film delights and moves me in ways that the earlier Anderson picture did not.

So what life lesson can I take from Max Fischer after he lands in public school?

At some point in the film -- and it's a magical and subtle sort of development rarely seen in American cinema -- Max stops being so selfish and turns his creative energies outward.


Quite simply, he makes it his goal to bring Mr. Blume (Bill Murray) back to life.

And that whole sequence really touches me in an odd way. The blossoming friendship between the two characters is a peculiar one -- especially since they had been at each other's throats only weeks before these events -- but it works for a viewer.

And Max is still Max -- he's still doing the same stuff at Grover Cleveland H.S. as he did at Rushmore Academy -- but he's now a new Max.

Now he's doing something excellent for someone else, more or less.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I feel lucky that I'm about to start a job here.

And very fortunate that I landed where I did.

I don't have the wide range of talents that Max Fischer had but, maybe, I can use my limited skills to do something excellent now.