Bypassing the theory that the 'awkward second film' can be a stumbling block (nobody saw their first, Bottle Rocket), the directing/writing team of Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson have created a movie as offbeat as you’re likely to see all year.
In a summer stuffed with high school dilemma movies, Rushmore turns the genre on its head to tell the tale of Max Fischer (newcomer Schwartzman), a student at the exclusive Rushmore Academy. A demented cross between Ferris Bueller and Adrian Mole, Fischer’s penchant for extra-curricular activities (he is president of everything from the Beekeepers Society to his own drama group) is having a disastrous effect on his academic prowess.However, his efforts to shape up go awry when he falls for teacher Rosemary (Williams), and worsen when she begins dating Herman Blume (Murray), a steel tycoon Max has befriended. Determined to win her back, the infatuated Fischer takes on Blume in a battle which becomes more adolescent at every turn.
Max Fischer is a unique creation, a smart aleck brat who, unlike the lily-livered high schoolers currently populating US teen movies and TV shows, might actually survive more than half-an-hour in the Grange Hill playground. But the impossibly talented Schwartzman is just the icing on a particularly appetising cake. The script is stuffed with fantastic, acerbic one-liners which hang teasingly around the brain for days, while Anderson keeps the tone fresh and vibrant, effortlessly blending wry poignancy and surprising warmth with startling high comedy (witness Fischer’s drunken outburst and pop culture playwriting).
And the casting is perfection: Murray, as the businessman in mid-life crisis, has never been better, Williams more than makes up for being in The Postman, and colourful supports - notably Gamble as Fischer’s best mate, and Stephen McCole as a foul-mouthed Scot - heighten the attention to detail; everybody, right down to the smallest of characters, is fully sketched. It may not bring in multiplex megabucks and its quirkiness will irritate the hell out of some but Rushmore will almost certainly attract a cult following. Just think of it as the year’s best kept cinematic secret.