December 21, 1998 12:00 PM

Bill Murray, Olivia Williams

A gloriously inventive little comedy about the scholastic and romantic woes of a 15-year-old student at a private academy, Rushmore opens for a one-week run this week in New York City and L.A. to qualify for the Oscars (as well it should). Then—jot down the title now—it reopens nationally in February.

As directed by talented Wes Anderson (Bottle Rocket) from a script he cowrote with actor Owen Wilson (Armageddon), Rushmore is an odd, almost goofy coming-of-age story. Actor Jason Schwartzman, a real find (he’s the son of actress Talia Shire), plays bespectacled Max, the film’s teen hero, who falls hard for a second-grade teacher (Williams, who’s lovely as a wistful widow) at Rushmore Academy. He finds himself vying for her affections with his mentor, a disheveled, married industrialist (Murray, as surrealistically splendid as ever). Watching Rushmore, a viewer has no idea what’s coming next but is continually pleased by what does. (R)

Bottom Line: Rush, when it opens in your town, to Rushmore

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