Hollywood in look but in tone something else, this is the odd tale of an intellectually precocious, loquacious, speccy, blazer-wearing 15-year-old (Jason Schwartzman) who falls for one of his teachers, pretty Olivia Williams (think of a non-irritating Liz Hurley with a couple of decent dinners inside her). Unfortunately, misanthropic local steel baron Bill Murray (back on Groundhog Day form) is equally smitten. Faint heart never won fair lady and the oddly mismatched and yet similarly obsessive love rivals are soon at it hammer and tongues. Very weird and often touching romantic comedy ensues as these two strange characters are dissected, helped along by acting that’s all played straight, no one raises even so much as an ironic eyebrow. There’s a nicely chosen soundtrack with some old favourites (Kinks, Stones, Cat Stevens, Donovan), though it’s not the usual suspects by all those guys, more the offbeat, whimsical examples of their work. As with Anderson’s first effort, Bottle Rocket, keeping it fresh seems to be the idea. It works.
© Steve Morrissey 1999