Review by Michael Jacobson
Jason Schwartzman, Olivia Williams, Bill Murray
Director: Wes Anderson
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 93 Minutes
Release Date: November 22, 2011
I've never seen a character quite like Max Fischer (Schwartzman),
although he did remind me vaguely of one or two people I used to know in school.
He is, perhaps, the ultimate high school over-achiever.
He is president and/or founder of nearly every club at Rushmore Academy,
academic, sporting, or otherwise. His
time is spent on his never ending torrential flows of extra-curricular
activities, including being the resident playwright on campus. He is brilliant, hardworking, resourceful, and dedicated.
He would be the ideal student, if he weren't failing his subjects so
His entire world is being a student at that prestigious
institution. He enjoys being the
man who gets things done on campus. He
keeps to himself the fact that he's not rich like the other students, but
instead attends on a scholarship he won writing a play in second grade (“a
little one-act about Watergate”). With
his list of accomplishments, he doesn't quite get why he's in danger of
being expelled simply because his grades are so poor.
But Max's energies and talents soon find a new outlet
when he develops a crush on pretty new teacher, Miss Cross (Williams).
Love is new for Max, and it's clear he doesn't know how to go about
it. After he learns of her
appreciation for Latin, for example, he embarks on a crusade to have Latin
reinstated into the school's curriculum, and never mind the fact that it had
been by his own earlier efforts that it had been dropped in the first place.
He decides the school needs a gigantic aquarium to please
her, so he goes about arranging this new project with the help of his new
friend, steel tycoon Mr. Blume (Murray). Blume
is a fascinating character in his own right.
He has twin sons who attend school with Max, and they are spoiled and
hateful, a constant source of irritation to him.
Though older and more successful, he has the same kind of almost
adolescent-like insecurities that plague Max.
And when he too falls for Miss Cross (despite being married
himself)…well, Max has not yet begun to fight.
The war that escalates over the teacher is both funny and a
little touching. It may remind you
of some of the terrible things one does when one is young and under the
influence of raging hormones. And
poor Miss Cross is caught in the middle of a lovestruck teenager and a married,
somewhat immature older man. Neither
is right for her, but they may die trying to prove that they are.
This is an extraordinary comedy, and quite a rare one,
these days, to have its humor completely derived from the characterizations.
In recent years when the funny but irreverent comedies like Knocked Up, There's Something About Mary,
The Hangover and others have been the
norm, this film stands out for being hilarious in a smart way, and for having
faith that these characters, and the depths the actors bring to them, can bring
the script's humor to life without any references to flatulence, bodily
excrements, or other below the belt visuals and jokes.
By the way, my favorite moments were probably seeing
Max's plays as enacted on stage. Talk
about your production values!
This high definition offering from Criterion is quite good, with mostly sharp images and just an occasional bit of softness here and there, but with good and natural color renderings throughout and no evidence of grain or compression.
The 5.1 soundtrack is mostly dialogue oriented, and sounds
fine, but comes to life during some key moments, including the excellent classic
rock songs on the soundtrack, and a few of Max's more daring plays.
This is where the Blu-ray really excels. For starters, there are some nicely designed animated menus to guide you through the disc's many offerings. Then once inside, you'll find a trailer, a stills gallery, a full length commentary with Anderson, star Schwartzman, and co-writer Owen Wilson, a behind the scenes documentary, the Charlie Rose Show featuring Anderson and Murray, storyboards and storyboard to film comparisons, and the most fun feature, the inclusion of the Max Fischer Players' productions of The Truman Show, Out of Sight, and Armageddon made for the MTV Movie Awards. Plus, the disc comes with a special poster, which is a map of Rushmore Academy and shows the sites of the film's key events.
Rushmore is a triumph. It's original, well acted, written, and directed, and is the kind of comedy that appeals to your mind rather than your basest instincts. There are many laughs, to be sure, but none that get in the way of the fact that there's a terrific story to be told as well. Kudos to Criterion for making this under-appreciated gem available on Blu-ray!