The sophomore effort of Wes Anderson, Rushmore brings together a 15 year old who flunked out of private school, and a steel tycoon in his 40s, and shows the lengths that people go to sometimes to try and win the heart of the one they love.
That would be too easy an effort, wouldn’t it? Well, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman, I Heart Huckabees) is attending Rushmore Academy on scholarship, and he loves Rushmore. So much so, that he creates a club for just about everything that hasn’t had an esta…lished club at Rushmore. Beekeepers’ Society? Check. Model U.N.? Check. He also writes and produces plays at the school. Not your average plays, more along the lines of adaptations. Adaptations which may not be appropriate for younger kids. I mean, why subject an 8 year old to a play that’s adapted from Serpico? The problem with all his extracurriculars is that he neglects his studies, and is threatened with expulsion by the school’s headmaster (Brian Cox, The Rookie). As Max’s father (Seymour Cassel, Stealing Harvard) is only a barber, expulsion would be expulsion, he couldn’t buy his way out of it. Max does find an inspiration, someone that he falls in love with, a 1st grade English teacher named Ms. Cross (Olivia Williams, The Sixth Sense). The problem is that Ms. Cross rejects his flirtations, so he enlists the aid of Herman Blume (Bill Murray, Caddyshack), a self-made tycoon who gains Max’s admiration and respect at a guest speaker engagement at the school, simply telling the poor kids to take the rich kids down. The problem with getting Blume involved is that he eventually falls in love with her also, though he is already unhappily married.
What follows next is a comic montage of pranks and juvenile tactics designed to intimidate either person away from Ms. Cross. This montage is set to music from the British Invasion period of the 60s, with songs by the Rolling Stones, Who and the Faces, to name a few. Anderson’s unique look at a teenager growing up, and dealing with rejection and acceptance of events are excellent. Schwartzman, the son of Talia Shire (Rocky) and Coppola family relative, is outstanding in his first film role, showing a wide variety of feelings and doing a great job in interacting with the adult characters. Anderson’s script, written with frequent writing partner Owen Wilson (Behind Enemy Lines), is full of humor and innocence, and Anderson’s influences in shooting (a lot of French new wave) help shed a different light on a something well-covered in other films, lending it a different viewpoint. After Disney/Buena Vista gave it a shoddy barebones release, Criterion (with Anderson’s help and enthusiasm) produced a fairly loaded Special Edition for this very good film.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 sounds good, but there is very little action to the film, so the proof is in the score and soundtrack. Mark Mothersbaugh’s (formerly of Devo) score sounds full and balanced, and the 60’s songs sound fantastic.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that was “supervised by Director Wes Anderson” was a huge improvement over the Buena Vista release, but compared to Criterion transfers of previous films, seemed a bit shoddy. I noticed some artifacts in the print of the film, which in and of itself was disappointing. Criterion had had the film for about a year and a half; if a recent film is going through its 2nd edition, the print should be spotless. Also, there seemed to be an halo of some sort that surrounded Schwartzman in various scenes, which looked pretty noticeable in the scenes where he first talks to Ms. Cross. Not the best work Criterion’s done, but considering what was out there, they will usually get my vote any time.
The Buena Vista disc only had the trailer I believe, and Criterion does its usual job on loading up the goodies. The disc is broken down into sections. The Rushmore Audio Visual Club is made up of several portions. Wes’ brother Eric Anderson shot a Making Of featurette in the non-EPK mode, with lots of shots of things being done for the film, and very little interviewing. He narrates it, and there are brief interview clips with Wes, Murray and Schwartzman to go along with it. It’s a nice feature, and at approximately 16 minutes, is good for its length also. Storyboards for the Geometry Dream, Yearbook Montage, Vietnam play and You Are Forgiven are included as well, and there is a film to storyboard comparison for the introduction and the Geometry Dream.
The Charlie Rose show (an interview series on PBS) included an episode that featured both Bill Murray and Wes on one episode, but for separate interviews. Running around 53 minutes (Murray’s time was about 33 minutes of that), Rose provides a fascinating interview with both men. Murray admitted at first that he didn’t have much faith in the role, but once he got to filming, became very comfortable with Wes, even offering to write a $25,000 check for stunt that Wes wanted to film (but never did). He also talks more about the film, and his thoughts on his beginnings (with Second City and Saturday Night Live), and the golf fan also talks briefly at the end about his upcoming participation at Pebble Beach. Murray is usually a great interview, and Rose has always been (in my mind) a good interviewer, and it’s very good time, and worth watching. Wes takes up the last 20 minutes, and seems uncomfortable almost. He does talk about how he was found, and his thoughts on directing, and the cast of the film. Good stuff overall. The trailer rounds this section out.
The Archiva Graphica section is rather brief, 26 production stills, memorabilia and behind the scenes shots. Considering what Criterion has done with other, similar galleries, the amount of stills here is pretty pathetic. The Max Fischer Players Present section includes the audition footage of Schwartzman, Mason Gamble (who plays Max’s chapel partner Dirk), Sara Tanaka (Max’s girlfriend Margaret Yang), along with footage of Duncan and Blume’s twin sons. There are also stills and memorabilia photos from plays that Max produced both at his public school and at Rushmore, 13 stills overall. Wes also enlisted the aid of the group to present their interpretation of the films nominated for Best Picture for the 1999 MTV Movie Awards. It’s pretty funny to watch the cast provide their own signatures for The Truman Show, Out of Sight and Armageddon.
The commentary in this section includes Wes, Owen Wilson and Schwartzman, and the commentary was edited together. Schwartzman is the most upbeat of the bunch, and naturally there isn’t a lot that he contributes unfortunately. Anderson and Wilson take most of the time, and they talk about how the project came together, in terms of the writing and casting, Wilson’s joy in watching the lines getting put on film, and Anderson’s preference for widescreen (here, here!). Wes talks about how he and Owen met, and how the music inspired the film. Anderson even talks about some obscure inspirations for shots or scenes. Some dialogue lines can be recognized from Heat and The Godfather. You’ve gotta love Wes and his eccentricities. The color bars comprise the last section of the disc, and Eric Anderson provides artwork for both the cover and the poster included as an insert to the set.
The film is great, the extras are substantial, the transfer is better and the sound is very good, substantial improvements over the initial release, but the price is ridiculous. Come on Criterion, help out the little guy here, knock a few bucks off of that so that they don’t have to buy the barebones Buena Vista release. If you can find it cheaper, pick it up, it is worth the time, and you’ll thank me (and Wes) for it.
Special Features List
- Commentary by co-writer/director Wes Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson and star Jason Schwartzman
- Wes Anderson’s Hand-Drawn Storyboards, Plus a Film-To-Storyboard Comparison
- Cast Audition Footage: Jason Schwartzman, Sara Tanaka, Stephen McCole, Ronnie & Keith McCawley and Mason Gamble
- Featurettes: The Making of Rushmore, an exclusive behind-the-scenes documentary by Eric Chase Anderson & The Charlie Rose Show, featuring Wes Anderson and Bill Murray
- Max Fischer Players Present: Theatrical “adaptations” of Armageddon, The Truman Show & Out of Sight, staged especially for the 1999 MTV Movie Awards
- Plus!: props, posters, photos & other graphic ephemera, Special Poster Insert (a map of Rushmore’s key events)