Writer/Director Wes Anderson is sort of a modern-day filmmaking hero of mine. From the opening few minutes of Bottle Rocket, I felt I had a socially awkward brother out there; another who grew up on Woody Allen films and knew too much about The Kinks for his own good. Yet, it was his sophomore film, the celebrated genius of 1998’s Rushmore that solidified our relationship; he as the beautifully brilliant bringer of quirk and charisma and me as the avid, rabid devotee. Fiercely, he satirized the coming-of-age narrative and established himself as a distinctive voice for my generation. The film, now celebrating its Criterion upgrade onto glorious high definition, would gross over $20 million and wind up on many a critical ‘Best Of’ list for that year.
The comedy-drama, co-written by close friend Owen Wilson, wraps itself in a thick coat of eccentricity as it presents an episode in the life of a quirky teenager named Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) who establishes a friendship with the wealthy Herman Blume (Bill Murray) at the very moment they both fall for Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), an elementary grade school teacher.
Fischer, however, is a different sort of teenager. As a Rushmore Academy student, he is both the most exceptional and the laziest student; full of ideas that have nothing to do with his scholarly pursuits and everything to do with Ed Wood-like theatrics. He argues nonstop with headmaster, Dr. Guggenheim (Brian Cox), about random nonsense and, believing that his intelligence makes him older than he physically is, actively pursues the affection of Miss Cross.
What develops from a mutual admiration between industrialist Blume and the sure-footed Fischer is a humorous game of Spy vs. Spy as both vie for Cross’s attention. Remember that thin line between love and hate? Both Fischer, Blume, and Cross traverse it time and time again in Rushmore.
Rich in character and whip-cracking dialogue, Rushmore has a lot going on below its surface. It might keep itself bubbling along as hip indie comedy, but scratch a bit and you’ll sample the real brew. For all its adolescence dealings, there disappointment of the adult life seems to be on the line. There are a number of failures in the marriages of the adults that surround the campus like insects to a swamp. No one seems happy. To say that Blume is a little defeated is an understatement. Death seems to be more the meaning of the matter as well as a sharp stick to the eye of social class.
Schwartzman is perfect as the precocious teenager who can’t see reality from fantasy. He bubbles with a quirky spirit that keeps him almost as a staple in Anderson’s work. And why not? This was the film that truly established the charms and overall feeling of the Anderson we now fawn over. Every line of Anderson and Wilson’s script is delivered with a resounding need to be heard. Schwartzman got what Anderson was doing and delivered a great performance. Murray also took to the role and was able to use it as springboard for his now cult-like status as everyone’s indie go-to-guy. Here, his career-changing performance seems fresh and almost surreal; sometimes eclipsing what he did for Jim Jarmusch in the underappreciated Broken Flowers.
Still, Anderson’s overwhelming understanding of composition and its overall use to create tone is the real reason we celebrate this film. His shots are perfectly framed tools that work in unison to create a character all of their own. Solidified with his expert use of music as it matches image, Rushmore deliciously impacts every scene with an ancient wisdom of the craft that has blessed only the real masters. It’s an intelligence that defies his age and heightens the reality presented in the film to great affect.
Nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, Rushmore celebrates the curious case of adolescent dislocation without the offensive self-referential material that isolates so many other coming-of-age narratives. It is a true delight of sound and vision.
MPAA Rating: R for language and brief nudity.
Director: Wes Anderson
Writer: Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson
Cast: Jason Schwartzman; Bill Murray; Olivia Williams; Seymour Cassel; Brian Cox
Genre: Comedy | Drama
Tagline: Love. Expulsion. Revolution.
Memorable Movie Quote: "Maybe I'm spending too much of my time starting up clubs and putting on plays. I should probably be trying harder to score chicks."
Distributor: Buena Vista Pictures
Release Date: February 5, 1999
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: November 22, 2011
Synopsis: The king of Rushmore prep school is put on academic probation.
English SDH, French, Spanish (less)
English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German SDH (less)
Available on Blu-ray - November 22, 2011
Screen Formats: 2.40:1
Subtitles: English SDH
Audio: English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc; Single disc (1 BD)
Playback: Region A
Arriving courtesy of an upgrade from Criterion, Rushmore’s 1080p transfer was supervised by Anderson and it shows. There is a stunning level of clarity and depth to the picture that was missing before. In many instances, the print looks cleaner and clearer and, ultimately, sharper overall. Colors are vibrant and black levels are consistently defined by deep edges and shadows that never bleed into the background. Skin tones are natural and fine detail is present throughout. The pitch-perfect sound – rendered here in a dynamic DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 – was remastered using 24-bit technology and the difference is outstanding. Songs are clear and loud and dialogue is pure.
- Recorded exclusively for Criterion in 1999, the commentary features director Wes Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson, and actor Jason Schwartzman all talking about the filming of the movie. It is the same one that was included on the original DVD Criterion release.
The booklet (and housed inside the revamped Criterion packaging features a marvelous essay written by Dave Kehr opens the supplemental material. This - followed by a 17-minute Making-Of featurette directed by Eric Chase Anderson (his brother) – only whets the appetite for all things Rushmore. And, as this is Criterion, there is plenty more. In an excerpt from The Charlie Rose Show, Murray talks about his career and the future of filmmaking. Anderson also turns out a decent interview. There are a number of audition tapes included with the set and Wes Anderson’s own hand-drawn storyboards.
- The complete breakdown is as follows:
- The Making of ‘Rushmore’ (17 min)
- The Charlie Rose Show (55 min)
- Auditions (9 min)
- A Gallery of 1999 MTV Movie Award Shorts (5 min)
- Film To Storyboard Comparisons (2 min)
- Five Anderson Storyboards
- Archiva Graphica