'Rushmore': absurd, human

Wes Anderson is a little awed at the critical acclaim bestowed upon the movie "Rushmore," which he directed and co-wrote with Owen Wilson. It focuses on Max Fischer, a gawky teen who, despite enduring abuse for his geekiness, rules Rushmore, the prep school he attends. But Max is quietly tragic. He's flunking out and tells lies. He falls in love with a teacher and befriends a sad rich guy (Bill Murray), with whom he competes for the teacher's affections.

Mr. Anderson sees a little of "The Graduate" and "Harold and Maude" in "Rushmore." And it also touches on a favorite Anderson theme: eclectic heroism.

"It shows you can be a success and sort of heroic and still be a horrible student," Anderson says. Despite all its hints of dark doings, "Rushmore" comes back to kindness.

"It's not an alienating kind of movie. It's a movie about friendship.... If I want people to come away with anything, I want them to see that it's optimistic."

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