Originally written August 2, 1999

Imagine Dead Poets’ Society directed by the Coen brothers. If you can imagine that, you can imagine the joy of Rushmore, a new release now available at your video store.

Rushmore is another in what is becoming a long line of recent cinematic treasures, following in the footsteps of The Ice Storm, There’s Something About Mary, South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, and Fargo, all of which have stamped a firm imprint on ‘90s movie-making and have set the tone of things to come.

Directed by Wes Anderson, co-written by Anderson and Owen Wilson, and starring newcomer Jason Schwartzman, Rushmore defies categorization. It truly is like nothing you have seen before. It is all at once a brilliant character study, a social treatise, a slapstick comedy and a love story. But what Rushmore mostly is is invigorating. This film is everything Good Will Hunting should have been in spirit and vision but wasn’t.

Rushmore follows Max Fischer (Schwartzman), a fearless and ambitious boarding school junior through a year in which he faces expulsion, falling in love, and the friendship and subsequent betrayal of friend Herman Blume, played by Bill Murray. While Murray is definitely the draw here, it is Schwartzman who captures the film and carries it on his shoulders. Discovered at a dinner party by a casting director during open calls for the lead role, Schwartzman makes his motion picture debut with Rushmore and what a debut it is. His Max is all at once sleazy and sensitive, poetic and crass, enigmatic and charming and altogether unaware of his own mortality. Seymour Cassel and Brian Cox add sizable weight to their supporting roles, but this is Schwartzman’s film. And Wes Anderson’s, who has directed one of the superior films of the decade, one that should be remembered for many years to come.

If Rushmore is any indication of the direction new young filmmakers are headed, we are all in for a fantastic ride.

My rating: *** Rent at once