Max Fisher (Jason Schwartzman) is the worst student at Rushmore, a prestigious High School for children of means. School principal Dr. Nelson Guggenheim (Brian Cox) has put him on ‘sudden death academic probation,’ and, no, there is no post-graduate year for Max to make use of in order to bring his studies back into line.
Undeterred, Max befriends wealthy billionaire Herman Blume (Bill Murray), a lonely and tired man who hates his own two children who also attends Rushmore. He also falls in love with new teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams), convinced that building her an aquarium – right next to the baseball field of all places – will be just the sort of act that convinces her to feel the same for him.
There’s lots to say about 1998’s Rushmore, this complex, intimately layered coming-of-age comedy going places and doing things that defy convention and rarely, if ever, stumble into cliché. Co-writer and director Wes Anderson, working once again with fellow Bottle Rocket script mate Owen Wilson (whose small cameo as the school’s baseball coach is an undeniable hoot), outdoes himself in every regard, this film a minor miracle that’s beyond triumphant.
So much happens here, Anderson moving things in multiple directions that even after numerous imitators still feel fresh, original and new. While the one-liners are terrific, while certain vignettes and moments produce fit upon fit of laughter, one cannot still fail to notice just how deep, literate and complex the actual narrative fueling all of this silliness actually is. These are real characters, real people, fully dimensional in every way that counts, and no matter how extreme or odd their antics become they’re still incredibly relatable on an innately human level that is somewhat surreal in its effectiveness.
Murray is incredible. How he didn’t get nominated, let alone win, the 1999 Oscar for Best Supporting Oscar still baffles me to this day (he did, of course, still win the Independent Spirit award, amongst others, for the role). This is without question the best work of the actor’s entire career, and the way he dexterously moves between the parameters of Anderson and Wilson’s script is consistently astonishing.
The rest of the cast is nearly as wonderful, and it is doubtful Schwartzman will ever be able to escape the typecasting his portrait of Max has frustratingly produced. Anderson’s handling of it all is nimble and precise, his use of music as sensational as ever while his mise-en-scène is as impeccable as ever. The film is so flawless, so melodiously hysterical, so poignantly bitter, so truthful yet absurd, every piece of it fits into the next with a precision that is as perfect as it is undeniable. Rushmore is a classic, and for director Anderson it still ranks as a crowning achievement he has yet to equal.
Rushmore is presented on a dual-layer 50GB Blu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.35:1/1080p transfer. As stated in the included booklet: “Supervised by director Wes Anderson, this digital transfer was created on a DFT SCANITY film scanner at 2K resolution from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter and flicker were manually removed MTI’s DRS and Pixel Farm’s PFClean, while Image System’s DVNR was used for small dirt, grain and noise reduction.”
Rushmore comes to Blu-ray in English DTS 5.1 Master Audio and includes optional English SDH subtitles. Again, from the included booklet: “The original 5.1 surround soundtrack was remastered at 24-bit from the original magnetic tracks. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD.”
Extras are ported over from the previous Criterion DVD and include:
· Audio Commentary with director/co-writer Wes Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson and star Jason Schwartzman
· Audition Gallery (8:40)
i. Jason Schwartzman
ii. Stephen McCole
iii. Ronnie and Kieth McCawley
iv. Sara Tanaka
v. Mason Gamble
· 1999 MTV Movie Award Shorts (4:14)
ii. The Truman Show
iv. Out of Sight
· The Making of Rushmore (16:49)
· Interview: The Charlie Rose Show (54:20)
· Film to Storyboard Comparison (1:55)
i. Geometry Dream
ii. Yearbook Montage
iii. Country Club Scene
iv. ‘You Are Forgiven’
v. Vietnam Play, Act One
· Archiva Graphica
· Original Theatrical Trailer (2:32)
It’s a ton of material, and all of it is terrific. The audio commentary is one of the best of its kind, as funny as it is informative. The making-of featurettes, directed by Eric Chase Anderson, Wes’ brother, is a bit too short but still pretty wonderful, while all the storyboard material (including the ‘Archiva Graphica’ section featuring posters and drawings) is kind of a fascinating in a ‘how’d they do that’ sort of way.
But my favorite extra has to be the episode of the “Charlie Rose Show” featuring Anderson and Murray, the latter in particular being far more forthcoming and honest about his career, his acting style, his choices and what he thinks of many of his previous films (most notably Ghostbusters) than I feel like he’s been in just about any other interview I’ve seen with him.
The Blu-ray also comes with a 4-page Illustrated Booklet featuring an essay by film critic Dave Kehr and an Illustrated Map/Collective Poster depicting the world of Max Fischer created by E.C. Anderson.
Rushmore was an instant classic in 1998; it’s even better now. Criterion’s Blu-ray is a magnificent, borderline monumental upgrade from the previous DVD edition. I say buy it right this very second.