DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Rushmore, Blu-ray (1998/2011)

Another offbeat exploration of various characters and their relationships from Wes Anderson.

Published on November 30, 2011

Rushmore, Blu-ray (1998/2011)

Director: Wes Anderson
Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Olivia Williams, Seymour Cassel
Studio: Touchstone/The Criterion Collection 65 [11/22/11]
Video: 2.35:1 anamorphic/enhanced for 16:9 1080p HD
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Subtitles: English
Extras: Audio commentary by Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman; “The Making of Rushmore” doc. by Eric Chase Anderson; “Max Fischer Players Present” – theatrical “adaptations of Armageddon, Out of Sight, The Truman Show; Charlie Rose Show excerpt with Anderson and Bill Murray; Cast audition footage; Anderson’s hand-drawn storyboards; Film-to-storyboard comparison; Theatrical trailer; Collectable poster map; Printed essay by Dave Kehr
Length: 93 minutes
Rating: ***** 

This second feature from Wes Anderson continued his world of unorthodox characters and their unexpected relationships. It also established a general style for Bill Murray’s acting which he has continued to do in a number of films: the resigned, world-weary and melancholic character. It has a somewhat autobiographical background, because Anderson himself attended a prep school in Houston and was expelled from it, just as the lead character here is.

Jason Schwartzman is Talia Shire’s son and does a fantastic job playing a 15-year-old at the prestigious Rushmore Academy on a scholarship (his father is a barber). Unfortunately, he is failing all of his classes because he spends so much time on all his extracurricular activities at the school, which he loves with a passion.  Max is not only a member of the drama club, wrestling club, beekeeper club, fencing club, etc., but founder of many of the groups. He wears a suit and tie at all times and is full of energy, acting like a super adult although he clearly isn’t one yet. He ends up with a pair of most unlikely soul mates at Rushmore: the sophisticated and rich steel magnate Herman, played by Murray, and the fetching British first-grade schoolteacher Rosemary. He even gets thousands of dollars from Herman to build an aquarium on the school’s baseball field, to be named after Rosemary.

When he is finally expelled from Rushmore (for the aquarium project) and has to deal with the realities of a crowded public school, both relationships are thrown for a loop. Herman also becomes smitten with Rosemary and he and Max fight it out in the most childish fashion. Max’s claim to fame is the success of his plays, which he produces at both schools. They are outlandish adaptations of things like Platoon and Serpico, with lots of special effects and noise. Nearly everything else he does is a failure, but he has no sense of his shortcomings. He can be very likable and totally frustrating at the same time. Like the whole movie, he has a funky sort of weirdness that fits right into my particular locale (“Keep Portland Weird”).

This is a great deal more than the typical coming-of-age schoolboy story, being entirely unpredictable. It has depth, focuses on often subtle emotions, and explores both the pain and excitement of this period of adolescence. The subtle dry humor of some of the dialog may jump out at you more in a second viewing. What a contrast to the current series of awful frat boys/scatological jokes/so-called comedies! The cinematography is superb, and the soundtrack often uses classic pop tunes of the British invasion period. The included fold-out map of the main things in Max’s life is a real kick, especially after having just seen the film.

—John Sunier




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