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The Criterion Collection presents
Rushmore (1998)

"She's my Rushmore."
- Herman Blume

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: December 04, 2000

Stars: Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman
Other Stars: Olivia Williams, Brian Cox, Seymour Cassel
Director: Wes Anderson

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: R for Language and brief nudity
Run Time: 1h:32m:42s
Release Date: January 18, 2000
UPC: 715515010429
Genre: comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A-B+A- B

DVD Review

Fifteen-year-old Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) embodies the idea of school spirit stressed in high school. His time is spent inaugurating countless new clubs and after-school activities. They include the Beekeepers Club, Calligraphy Club, Fencing Club, and his own creative original plays. These productions include an adaptation of Serpico and the explosive Heaven and Hell, which covers the Vietnam War. Sadly, Max fails to harness similar enthusiasm for his studies, and he's flunking out of school.

In Rushmore, the remarkable new film from Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket), Max's life is changed forever through his interactions with two adults, steel tycoon Herman Blume (Bill Murray), and beautiful teacher Miss Cross (Olivia Williams). Mr. Blume catches Max's eye during a surprisingly frank chapel speech that tells the students to place their "crosshairs" on the rich kids. They soon become friends, but everything becomes complicated when they both fall for Miss Cross. Thus begins a battle between the two stubborn foes that alienates both of them from her. She describes them both accurately as "little children."

Anderson has once again joined with co-writer Owen Wilson to create a wonderfully quirky story. They first collaborated on Bottle Rocket, a silly but genuine heist film that generated a small cult following. It featured a standout performance from Wilson, whose Dignan inhabited a near-imaginary world of his own making. Rushmore contains a similar fairy-tale quality, as Max believes he can do anything, and basically succeeds in the end. The direction evokes a strong sense of caring for the characters, who may commit dark deeds, but remain likable in the end.

Rushmore's success originates from an array of wonderful acting performances. Bill Murray gives Mr. Blume a quiet dignity that shows the pain lurking inside. In one scene, he floats through his pool in a dreamy state, and we obtain an intimate view of a fascinating man who can't believe the way his life has turned out. In his first film role, Jason Schwartzman brings a perfect combination of enthusiasm and young angst to Max. When he fails to gain the affections of Miss Cross, he whines and schemes like a 15-year old boy. Olivia Williams brings a surprising tenderness to Miss Cross, who still mourns over her husband a long time after his death. The cast also includes numerous colorful characters, including Mr. Little Jeans, played by Kumar Pallana, who also appeared in Bottle Rocket.

The soundtrack features British Invasion favorites that mesh perfectly with the style of the film. One highlight is the montage sequence early in the film that displays all of Max's school activities. Creation's Making Time blares over quick shots of each of his numerous clubs, and it quickly and cleverly introduces us to this eccentric character. Anderson does an excellent job throughout the film of using music and pictures instead of dialogue to tell the story. This works especially well during the battles between Max and Mr. Blume.

Rushmore differs from the usual cookie-cutter Hollywood comedy by making its main characters more complex and sometimes unlikable. Anderson and Wilson's humor utilizes intelligent wit and numerous references to other films that might not draw in everyone. However, the script's cleverness and intricacies make it one of the best comedies in recent years.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: This director-approved Criterion release contains an impressive 2.35 anamorphic widescreen transfer that includes only a few occasional dust glitches and spots. The colors are rich and textured, especially within the bright reds and blues of Max's eccentric wardrobe, and the black levels are solid. However, the image is not quite detailed or clear enough to warrant a superior rating.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 Channel Surround mix does not play a major role for much of the film because of the dominance of dialogue. The British Invasion songs sound wonderful, though, and really utilize the entire system. The explosions and gunfire during Heaven and Hell also makes use of the rear surrounds to provide an excellent sensory experience. The overall sound mix is crisp and definite, and has no obvious drawbacks.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Documentaries
Storyboard
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Wes Anderson, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman
Packaging: Alpha
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. The Charlie Rose Show, featuring Wes Anderson and Bill Murray
  2. Max Fischer Players Present: Theatrical "adaptations" of Armageddon, The Truman Show, and Out of Sight staged especially for the 1999 MTV Movie Awards
  3. Cast audition footage: Jason Schwartzman, Sara Tanaka, Stephen McCole, Ronnie and Keith McCawley, and Mason Gamble
  4. Props, posters, photos, and other graphic ephemera
  5. Special poster insert: a map of Rushmore's key events
Extras Review: Criterion delivers with a plethora of extras, but several, including the commentary, are surprisingly disappointing. Also, this disc is notably missing a section detailing the cast and crew of the film. The menus are well-done, however, and include drawings and a simple, intricate score. The extras are extensive and will keep you busy for a while, but fall short of the best DVD releases.

The Making of Rushmore is an informal 17-minute behind-the-scenes documentary directed by Eric Chase Anderson, Wes' brother. This feature differs dramatically from the usual promotional pieces, with Anderson presenting some entertaining hand-held footage from the set. Unfortunately, it really only scratches the surface and lacks the depth of superior documentaries such as New Line's Magnolia Diary. While it provides a brief overview of the cast and crew, and everyone appears to be having a wonderful time, I hoped for more from a Criterion release.

This disc also includes a full-length episode of The Charlie Rose Show, featuring separate interviews with Bill Murray and Wes Anderson. While Rose usually has insightful talks about film subjects, he misses the point for most of this show. His lengthy interview with Bill Murray spends far too much time on unrelated issues within the movie business. The much shorter discussion with Wes Anderson touches the surface of Rushmore, but Rose asks him more about coming out of nowhere than the actual film. Murray and Anderson both provide interesting information about themselves, but give little insight into the making of the film.

This feature commentary by director and co-writer Wes Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson, and star Jason Schwartzman was recorded separately and combined into one track. This eliminated the chance for them to play off each other, and it makes the commentary dull at certain points. All three provide plenty of background and insight into the film, but it's too scene-specific and lacks sufficient thematic discussion. Wilson provides a little too much plot summary, but he does keep his entries entertaining. Anderson delves into the origins of the film, including how it stems from events from both his and Wilson's youth. The references to other films are all over Rushmore, and the writers do a good job explaining their influences. Overall, the commentary provides enough background to make it a rewarding experience, but suffers from repetition and no interactive conversations.

The storyboard section contains an interesting film-to-storyboard comparison during the opening classroom scene. It also includes the drawings from several key sequences, including the yearbook montage and Heaven and Hell play. Wes Anderson drew the storyboards by hand, and it obviously helped him in the construction of pivotal scenes in the film.

The Max Fischer Players section features several creative and often hilarious shorts that were aired in conjunction with the 1999 MTV Movie Awards. They include the players performing scenes from The Truman Show, Out of Sight, and Armageddon. The section also contains short segments from the auditions of Jason Schwartzman, Mason Gamble, Stephen McCole and others. It's fascinating to view several key scenes at such an early stage, and to note McCole's immediate grasp of his Magnus character. The area also contains pictures that stray from the usual promotional photographs. Instead, there are props from Max's plays, including ticket stubs, newspaper clippings, and advertising posters.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

While the extras in Rushmore fail to measure up to the best Criterion releases, they provide a suitable complement to this excellent film. These assets, combined with the impressive digital transfer and audio mix, definitely warrant the DVD's higher purchase price.

 


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