Mark Twain used his adolescent hero to provide an outsider’s viewpoint on a rapidly stratifying American society, a republican dream pulling apart into divisions of age, income and race. Rushmore is also about class divisions—Max, the son of the local barber (Seymour Cassel), is attending the exclusive school on a scholarship—but Anderson and co-writer Owen Wilson, more wishful thinkers than Twain, use comedy to imagine the healing of those divisions, the reweaving of relationships across the lines of class and generation. […]
Rushmore has some strongly autobiographical elements: it was shot at St. John’s, the Houston prep school that Anderson attended (he later went to the University of Texas at Austin, with future collaborator Wilson). Like Max, Wilson was expelled from school and Anderson used the school auditorium to stage his own plays: action epics with titles like The Five Maseratis and The Battle of the Alamo. On another level, Max is, perhaps, representative of all artists who use their work to arrange and control the world around them. A play will be his way of reassembling his life, of bringing Blume and Miss Cross back together, of reintegrating a whole range of broken friendships and incidental enmities, into a balanced community.
– Dave Kehr, i et essay hos Criterion.