We’ve made it to our final movie in our Back to High School Series. It’s been a journey reliving some of our own high school moments as we watched many a teen protagonist weather the pitfalls and triumphs of those formative years. We decided to close out with Rushmore as it would provide a totally different viewing from the films that preceded: something more artistic and ultimately more dark, but a film that still captures the shared experience of the growing pains we all suffered as we simultaneously rushed towards adulthood and relished our youthful invincibility.
Usually when we decide on our menus, we consider the setting, food referenced or eaten in the movie, etc. This time, we wanted a little bit more creative freedom with our food, and decided to focus on aligning it to the color scheme that is specific to Rushmore. In case you missed it, Wes Anderson color schemes are very much a thing in all of his movies. Behold:
The main character, Max, aspires to be a much more suave, refined, cultured gentleman than his teenage physique and inclinations allow. We decided to prepare a meal within the color scheme that would be appropriate for his aspirations, something classy and elegant and maybe even a little snooty.
We started the night with a charcuterie platter with whole-grain beer mustard, country-style pork terrine from our favorite butcher, pickled sweet peppers, and cornichons. We made the mustard ourselves, soaking the mustard seeds in beer and vinegar the night before to impart some extra flavor. It was spicy, flavorful, and the perfect compliment to the terrine. We imagine this was the type of snack Max would have prepared for a study session in the library with Ms. Rosemary, the subject of his unrequited and underage love.
For our main course, we roasted some cornish game hens with rosemary (see what we did there?), thyme, and lemon. We served the hens sliced in half over a bed of sautéed spinach and roasted heirloom tomato sauce. It was exactly the kind of comforting yet sophisticated dish that Max would have liked to share with his father after a hard day’s work in his barber shop.
We closed out the meal with a delicious crème brûlée with a golden crust. We really pulled out all the stops for this one and invested in a professional kitchen torch to complete each custard with its signature caramelized sugar crust. And our secret ingredient to really make this a dessert to remember? A dash of Gran Marnier in the custard. Delightful. Max definitely would have ordered this at his celebratory dinner after a successful opening night at one of his plays.
For our Rushmore cocktail, we wanted something complex, challenging, and worthy of a refined palette. We settled on a Lucien Gaudin, which was aptly named for an early 20th century French Olympic fencer. Max, a competitive fencer himself, would surely have enjoyed toasting the success of a match with this, bright but bitter, gin and campari-based cocktail.
- Drink whenever you cringe because of Max’s awkward flirting.
- Drink whenever music opens a scene.
- Drink whenever the shot is perfectly symmetrical. (Please see our lawyer’s note below.)
And just a word of warning…
— Munch (@getmunchedup) September 20, 2015
As much as I would love to allow the creative freedom and opportunity of expression from these young minds, I cannot in good faith, especially as the Munch lawyer, allow for you (the Reader) to follow the last drinking rule set forth for Rushmore. It is a dubious rule that should not be followed if you have any concern for your health. Therefore, it is necessary for me to state that the Munch group (consisting of André, Leanna, and Ben) release all responsibility if you choose to follow their rules. Believe me, I have tried to tell them to scale back a little bit so their lawyer fees wouldn’t be so high, but they never listen! Kids these days. When I was a young girl, I was like the Rushmore protagonist in many ways: sophisticated, smart, and refined. If only there were more like him out there nowadays.
Rushmore follows Max, an overly-ambitious and precocious 15-year-old. Despite being involved with nearly every club on campus and writing and directing several over-the-top plays, Max is only an image of academic success and finds himself failing most of his classes. Determined to maintain his charade which also includes a running lie that his barber father is actually a neurosurgeon, Max thinks he has it all figured out. This pretense only lasts until he is introduced to the new first grade teacher, Rosemary Cross, who is both beautiful and captivating. Max employs all of the tools in his adolescent arsenal in an attempt to win her affections, but, as one might expect, is largely unsuccessful.
In this process, he befriends the father of two of his classmates, Herman Blume, played by the immensely talented Bill Murray. Max askes Blume for his help, but Blume finds himself falling for Rosemary himself, much to Max’s chagrin. Max tumbles into an all-too-familiar adolescent spiral, and ends up getting kicked out of school. Throughout the rest of the movie, we see Max come to terms with who he is as a person, and stop pretending to be someone he’s not. He starts earning genuine respect from his peers and mentors by performing at a high level and selflessly attempting to get Blume and Rosemary together.
This character arc was present in nearly all the Back to High School movies we watched. In Bring It On, Torrance thought she was hot shit until she was taken down a notch by the Clovers, who showed her that the Toros had stolen all of their routines. Torrance and her team discovered they had no reason to be proud of the awards they cherished because they weren’t won using original material. Torrance has to drastically rethink her competitive strategy including attempting to assist the Clovers in their campaign for Nationals despite the threat that their participation could cost the Toros an otherwise sure victory. Similarly, in Mean Girls, Cady realizes that she isn’t as great of a person as she thought she was, and has to take steps to redeem herself in her peers eyes and her own.
Clearly, these movies set in high school all set about tackling the issues that arise with adolescence. The adolescent path is one of exploration, self-discovery, and narcissism before finally learning empathy. Each movie set about tackling these issues their own way, but they definitely each followed the story arc of self-aggrandizement, putting self interest before others, the epiphany moment, and recompense for past wrongs. Rushmore tackled these problems in the darkest and deepest manner of the four movies we watched, while High School Musical was undoubtably the most light hearted of the bunch, and strayed the furthest from this narrative.
Of the Back To High School movies we watched, Rushmore was certainly the most artfully done. Wes Anderson is a master of composition, and we loved keeping an eye out for his signature symmetrical framing as well as his construction of a consistent color scheme. The writing was excellent, the acting was great, and the soundtrack paired perfectly with the film.
Andre: Two thumbs way, way up. This was, without a doubt, my favorite of the bunch. Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman both put on one of their best performances of all time with this one, and Wes Anderson did an excellent job directing. I was constantly chuckling throughout the movie, which I found very funny, and was very satisfied with how the plot played out. After four movies of nothing more than surface level laughs, I was glad to watch a movie that was artfully composed and thoughtfully written.
Leanna: 13 points out of 15. I’m a fan of Wes Anderson films in general, and this is no exception. A very young Jason Schwartzman gave a fantastic performance as Max that is both believable and unbelievable at the same time – but that’s all part of his charm. He reminds me a lot of myself in the way he always wants what he can’t have, but, unlike me, has the guts to ignore his inhibitions and pursue his dreams, even when it’s not the wisest decision. It’s a love story, a coming of age story, a dark comedy, and a brooding drama all in one compelling story.
Ben: 75%. I will be forthright in saying that I have not seen my fair share of Wes Anderson films, although I feel like I have an understanding of what his movies consist of. Wes Anderson is an auteur director if I have ever seen one, which is neither a boon nor a vice. It is just a matter of fact. Rushmore itself is an interesting comedy in that it eschews the usual form comedy films take for humor based around the unique situations, characters, and circumstances presented in the film. Not the type of humor to make you laugh out loud, but to provide you with a little smirk as the movie progresses. This humor is influenced a step further by the subtle darkness present in the film that comes about through the dour lives some characters lead. The simple life the main characters live is soon peeled away revealing the more realistic lives of these unique characters. This effect of matching humor with dark circumstances works to varying degrees and will play differently to each member of the audience. I found it to ultimately be a decent experience but not one that I loved.
Also for our readers in Seattle, on Thursday next week (October 8, 2015) we will be putting on an event at Central Cinema. You can find more information about it here (Munch Event: The Fast and the Furious), but we would love it if you showed up and enjoyed a blog favorite.