Directed by Paul Weitz
Written by Peter Hedges, Chris Weitz
Bill Murray as Professor Highsmith
Frances McDormand as Patricia Lang
Emile Hirsch as Chris Highsmith
Anjelica Huston as Jacqueline Wells
James Pickens Jr. as the Dean Johnson
Anna Paquin as Sylvia
Michael Stahl-David as Louis
Tagline: "Life is a constant failed examination"
Synopsis: Professor Highsmith has received an anonymous letter that is tormenting his quiet and lonely life. He tries not to give it much thought, but it may put his career and reputation in danger. He tries to live his life as if nothing has changed, with his tyrannical teaching style and uncouth behaviour towards his colleagues, it was business as usual. All seemed calm until the dean makes it known that the groundless noted rumour is making it's way through the faculty and student body, causing quite the stir. On his way to his first class, he grimaces at the plethora of signs posted around campus, and tries to ignore the immaturity his morning class brings. The rumour jumps to the campus paper and the innocent anecdote becomes a big media sceptical starting with the headline, “High fraud; University doctor hasn’t passed one subject in the high school”.
Is their proof? Someone could want revenge? His exams were notoriously cruel and unfounded.... Or maybe his last book that painted a poor picture of his home town and uneducated residents could have sparked hatred. It was all absurd to Professor Highsmith, after all his doctorate wasn't a fake. Though the worried, Dean Johnson had to do something and clarification was needed from the professor's old high school. Principal Jacqueline Wells from Flowerbed High School, and Highsmith’s ex-partner check and recheck his records, the rumours couldn't have been true!? They were on paper and whether he graduated or not, both educational boards agree upon a mandatory final exam, to wash their hands and feet of this Highsmith scandal, and leave all this surreal case behind. With his career in jeopardy, and pressure from the university, Professor Highsmith accepts the terms in acquiesce.
Back to the town of Flowerbed, where he was born, where was grew up, married, had a child, and got divorce that would make him finally flee. A place full of ungrateful memories and angry people. After a somewhat obligated visit to his son Chris and ex wife Patricia; now a school teacher who writes successful vegan recipe books, he finds himself in a lonely motel room studying for an exam that is completely beneath his level of intelligence.
High school principal Jacqueline Wells and Dean Johnson oversee the exam. The media has moved into the small town to scrutinize. Everything is well orchestrated and choreographed. It would all soon be over with they thought until the ball drops; Highsmith fails the exam. Commotion rises, and everyone's plan crumbles to a foot. The University has to fire Highsmith. The students and school board demand immediate action. Highsmith is at an all-time low, but is offered a chance to redeem himself. Though he would have to stay in Flowerbed, where he would go back to school.... to high school that is, in hopes to retake the final exam and find out who planted the seed of such discord that has almost completely ruined his life. Could his sham credentials be a blessing in disguise?
Patricia offers him his old room above the garage, where he had spent the last year of his marriage. He will have to live again with his former family: his ex-wife, who is enjoying the situation, and a son he doesn't know, who’s doubting his sexuality thinking and contemplates an end to his relationship with girlfriend, Sylvia, and start a new and exciting one with a charismatic new classmate, Louis. A long year awaits Mr. Highsmith, who will be forced to live the life he tried throw away.
What the Press would say:
“High” is the result of an act of reconciliation with some of the hardest years in the life of any person in the world; high school. The screenplay rises in a conversation between the writers, when Chris Weitz tells of a recurring nightmare about a phone call from his high school telling him that there was a mistake, and that there is a subject he didn’t pass. The three writers start talking about how they could change their lives if such a situation presented itself. They create a main character built with pieces from some of the most influent teachers of their academic years. A character in need of a big lesson in humility and who would need to understand his students, their dreams, problems and complex lives. They found their perfect character in Bill Murray, a great comic actor who has a melancholic touch. It was a big challenge for him to fit this tyrant professor with a forced evolution of a humble man who is fired because a big mistake from the past comes back to bite him. Bill Murray perfectly captures the character and plays one of his best roles ever. He is accompanied by the wonderfully funny, ironic and superb comedic performance of Frances McDormand. The comedic situations between the two are served, building up to one of the most hilarious ex-couples of all time. A sense to all this mess is given in the form of their son, played by Emile Hirsch; a great young actor who drives a great character, who is always shadowed by the strong personality of their parents, but carries on valiantly with maturity not found in his adult counterparts. The square is completed with the tied interpretation of Anjelica Huston’s character of Principal Wells. A support role but with a big presence. A very funny role of a sad and contained woman anchored by a past. "High" is a surprising small film, worth seeing, very funny and thought-provoking. Providing a great touch of sentimentality and humour from the experimental director, Paul Weitz (About A Boy, In Good Company, American Dreamz) who teams up with brother Chris, to compose an endearing script that is sure to entice the mind.
Best Director: Paul Weitz
Best Original Screenplay
Best Leading Actor: Bill Murray
Best Leading Actress: Frances McDormand
Best Supporting Actor: Emile Hirsch
Best Supporting Actress: Anjelica Huston