"Rushmore" and I have taken a while to get used to one another. When I first saw the film in theaters when it was released, I hated it and was dissapointed, expecting something different from the director of "Bottle Rocket", which I enjoyed immensely. After a number of viewings on cable and also, the original Buena Vista DVD edition, I've come to appreciate the film more. I still don't quite think it's perfect and don't think it's "Bill Murray's best performance", but the quirks of the film have grown on me.
The film stars newcomer Jason Schwartzman as Max Fischer, a young student at Rushmore academy who you would think is a star student: he's started nearly every school club and is involved in almost every action that changes the school. We soon find out though, that he's about to be expelled if he flunks one more class. Quickly, two new people come into his life: a wealthy steel tycoon played by Bill Murray and a Kindergarden teacher played by Oliva Williams. He quickly falls in love with the teacher and she tells him flat-out that it'll never happen. When Murray's Herman Blume character falls in love with the teacher himself, it becomes nothing short of war.
Soon enough, Max is kicked out of Rushmore and begins to start over again at public school. He still continues his battles with Herman, although the more they battle, the less likely either one of them will even be friends with the teacher. During the first couple times I watched the movie, I just didn't like the Max character. It's a good performance of a character that I at first found rather unlikable and not terribly interesting. Now that I've seen Reese Witherspoon's character from "Election", I find the characters incredibly similar in their almost unbreakable focus to get what they want. Murray does things with the character that are impressively subtle, and I wish the character had been given more screen time. The way he plays this lonely character as both sad and with a touch of humor may not be his best performance, but it's certainly an excellent one.
Again, what I still like every time is the way that characters are placed in the widescreen frame. Comedies don't usually shoot in this aspect ratio, but there are compositions in this film where a character or characters are placed on backgrounds that seem endless, and I still find it very effective. I haven't completely changed my mind about the movie, but have begun to appreciate it more.
VIDEO: I thought that the original Disney release was not particularly great in any way, with images that were adequately sharp, but not quite as good as they could look. Criterion has put together an anamorphic transfer for their release and the results are very good, and a noticable improvement upon the earlier edition. Where the images were not terribly sharp in the Disney edition, they look excellent here, looking very clear and razor sharp thoughout. Colors seemed a little stronger and richer on this release as well. Detail is very good, and flesh tones remain accurate.
The only flaw that I noticed on occasion with this image is a slight bit of shimmer that came up here and there. Enough to be slightly noticable, but not enough to be too distracting. All in all, a very strong image and an improvement over the good, but not great Buena Vista effort.
SOUND: I've forgotten how good the audio on this film sounds. Sure, it's not a film that's terribly intense or aggressive, but I absolutely love the score by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, which is full of British invasion tunes. When the score really kicks in, it sounds fantastic and wonderfully enveloping. Other than that, there really isn't much beyond dialogue. The last play that Max does certainly does sound amazing, with solid bass and surround effects, but it's a rather short scene. Dialogue is clear and easily understood. Again, not agressive, but the score sounds great.
MENUS:: Nicely done animated main menus that play the score in the background.
EXTRAS:: The extras are certainly excellent - definitely one of the more packed packages Criterion has put together and certainly, it's more impressive than just the trailer that was included with the original Disney release.
Commentary: This is a commentary with director Wes Anderson, co-writer Owen Wilson and actor Jason Schwartzman. While it's not the most informative commentary, it's an entertaining one that's generally relaxed in tone and sometimes very funny. The three are not recorded together and their comments have been edited together into one commentary track, which probably was needed since the three were busy doing various other projects, but I sensed that there would have been a little more fun had the three been talking together.
A good deal of the early part of the commentary is devoted to the early years of both Wilson and Anderson, and how they became interested in directing and acting, as well as how they met each other and began working together, especially going into detail about "Bottle Rocket", the first film that Anderson and Wilson worked on(by the way, if you've never seen that film, definitely at least rent it!). The discussion also talks at a few points about the high school life of Wilson and Anderson and how some of those moments and characters were added into the movie. Schwartzman's comments are interesting, as they're mainly focused on what it was like for this film to be the first major picture that he's acted in.
Other than that, the group mainly comments on various stories from the set and what they thought of the scenes and various actors. Sometimes the commentary is a little slow, but I found it entertaining and funny at most points. Wilson, who was hilarious in the otherwise awful "Haunting" is really the highlight, providing the majority of the laughs during the discussion. Not the best commentary I've heard lately, but it has its moments.
The Making Of "Rushmore": A documentary exclusive to this Criterion edition of the film, this is a really nicely done feature that's done by the director's brother, Eric Anderson, who also does the narration during this feature. Documentaries like this work enormously better than the usual documentary features that are usually included with DVDs, because it doesn't feel as if its nothing more than a promotional item, which is what most of these features seem to be. This is a "you-are-there" look at the production and allows the viewer a complete look at how scenes were filmed.
Anderson has put together a very well-organized documentary that goes in-depth to the production, frequently taking a look at the cast at work filming various scenes of the movie or just having fun playing basketball at the hotel or Murray leaving to play golf. Most of it is incredibly informative, taking a look at how the month names were projected onto the curtains, recording sound effects on the set as well as what kind of safety measures were taken when there was any sort of weapon involved in a scene.
Murray provides some of the funniest moments, joking to the camera and with the cast and extras. Of course, like any documentary feature, there are a number of interviews with members of the cast and crew, but unlike the formal interviews that are on most documentaries, these are relaxed and informal, with one interview happening while Murray is getting his hair cut. It's a very good documentary, although it ends a little too suddenly.
"The Max Fischer Players": A section that includes the three short "adaptations" that were done for the MTV music awards for "Out Of Sight", "The Truman Show" and "Armageddon"; photos and prop pictures from the play and well as short bits of the audition tapes that Jason Schwartzman, Ronnie and Keith McCauley, Stephen McCole, Mason Gamble and Sara Tanaka sent in.
The Charlie Rose Show: Although its unfortunate that Bill Murray was not on the commentary track, it's still interesting to be able to hear his comments about the movie and Hollywood in general with this complete episode of the "Charlie Rose Show" where both Murray and director Wes Anderson appeared.
Storyboards: There is a split-screen film to storyboard comparison for one of the film's scenes, as well as basic storyboards for 5 other scenes that were done by director Wes Anderson for the movie.
Also: A gallery of photos, props and various notes from the movie, the trailer, a booklet of notes about the movie and also, a fold-out poster of a map where all of the events of the movie took place.
Final Thoughts: A very enjoyable special edition with some great extras. Recommended.