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CRUSH (2002)

Kate (Andie MacDowell), the prim headmistress; Janine (Imelda Staunton), the authoritarian policewoman; and Molly (Anna Chancellor), the thrice-divorced doctor: each week these three, forty-something, single females gather for the aptly named “Sad F***ers Club”. It is a ritual of solidarity among the trio, in which they compete for the most tragic tale from the past week involving the opposite sex for the prize of a box of comfort confections. Accustomed to successful careers, unlucky-in-love lifestyles, their slightly sad but stable outlook is suddenly thrown into confusion when Kate has an impulsive roll in the bushes with Jed (Ken Doughty), a twenty five-year-old ex-pupil. When it turns out to be more than a flash of passion, Molly, in particular, is mortified; and determines that it is necessary to take measures to save Kate. Measures that will have tragic consequences. 

Review by Brad Green:
John McKay is a brave man. Henry James was considered intrepid for being man enough (notwithstanding his homosexuality) to tackle the psychology of female protagonists. Here McKay as screenwriter and director (his feature debut) limns three female characters and their bonds of friendship. Even more courageous is his steadfast tread down the tragicomic route. Few fail to trip up along that path. Crush is far from flawless but it doesn’t trip; in fact, it’s a triumph in spite of its glitches. Character development occasionally suffers for a laugh, and at other times merriment is cut short to permit dramatic impetus. Far outweighing these compromises is the ultimate truth that life is full of the comedy and tragedy represented. As a portrayal of solidarity between women bemoaning their love-impoverished and wrong-side-of-forty status it is only moderately powerful. But there is more here. Driven by the performance of MacDowell’s career, the film rises well beyond the status of the archetypal, fun but lightweight, rustic English comedy. MacDowell always brings a truck of class to even the flimsiest, comedic fluff; and here her mature sensuality and subtle timing is given full scope to entrance us. Hers is the role least played for one-liners, and the most for dramatic impetus and depth of character. It is a challenging assignment to convince us that this prim and proper headmistress would fall so devastatingly for a young beau, but we believe and empathise with ease. Jed’s infatuation is not as clearly delineated; apart from the fact that he’s had a crush on her since the ninth grade. Fair enough, who hasn’t? The film could not exist as the comic/dramatic hybrid that it is without a few gaps. But it doesn’t suffer too much for the compromise. The friendship motif is possibly the main intention, but for mine there is something extra. An age gap narrows rapidly under the crush of love, and so does the gap between comedy and tragedy under the strange and wonderful crush of life.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Let’s start with the good bits: fabulous performances from the three perfectly mismatched women. No Hollywood studio would ever agree to such life-like casting. A stunning Andie MacDowell, a sturdy Imelda Staunton and a blousy Anna Chancellor make the perfect trio of femme friends on the losing side of the mating game. Young Kenny Doughty as Jed has the striking echo of a young Dirk Bogarde, complete with simmering sensuality and danger. All the supports are splendid, too, in what would be an ensemble piece except for the fact that the overwhelming screen time is used up by the three leads. The dialogue is heartfelt one minute, bitchily funny the next, with some cracking good lines. Like the vicar, Gerald Farquhar Marsden (Bill Paterson) who calls out to Kate from his car, in what is intended as the highest of compliments, “you’re better than sausage”. The setting is critical to the scenario – in the luverly countryside of the English Cotswolds; beautiful and dull and very much a village. A village whose supportive hug is also something of claustrophobic embrace. So the film looks great, and sounds great, with a well judged score from Kevin Sargent. Where I find the film wanting is in the lapses of English understatement and occasional manipulation, where the highly naturalistic mood is suspended for the sake of effect. Nor do I buy Molly’s worst excesses in trying to undo the Kate-Jed knot. These potholes make the film’s emotional tour a little bumpy, but considering the highly ambitious blend of comedy and tragedy, this is a relatively small price to pay. The four distinct moods of the film are cobbled together by the high quality performances, and by our own willingness to take part in the whole fantasy.

Review by Louise Keller:
Crush tries to emulate the stunningly successful combination of comedy and pathos in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and it comes close, but ultimately doesn’t succeed. It’s a great pity, because all the ingredients are there for a thoroughly enjoyable entertainment, with wonderful performances from Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton and Anna Chancellor, and a crisp, witty script that simply crackles from the page. The irony of these characters is that they ‘are’ the antithesis of what they ‘do.’ Crush is a woman’s film – who else could totally appreciate the confidences shared over gin and chocolates of these frustrated 40-something women? Yep, everyone knows that it’s quite different for women to spill the beans, as opposed to ‘gentlemen never telling’. Somehow, it’s harmless – or so we think! And first time writer/director John McKay certainly has a light touch when it comes to the fairer sex’s complexity. The insights we glean into their mindsets and relationships are both amusing and moving. The characters are wonderfully written and beautifully brought to life in their surrounds of the picturesque village atmosphere where everybody knows everybody’s business. The main problem is that the film is fragmented into a) flippant buddy movie, b) tragic drama and then back into c) flippant buddy movie. When tragedy strikes, we are not sure whether we are meant to laugh or cry. And a couple of plot points in the lead up just don’t ring true. They shatter our belief of the characters. The challenge of getting the story back on track is a little easier and by the story’s end, we feel as though we have come full circle. Filmed in Gloucester, London and Paris, the settings are gorgeous, and the shopping spree in Paris (shopping for men, as well as goodies) is a welcome highlight. Kenny Doughty – looking very much like a young Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise - is delightful as the young organist who becomes the object of Kate’s passion and Bill Paterson gives a well measured performance as the doting deacon who is the epitome of respectability and suitability. Crush is delightful in parts, but could be so much more.

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CAST: Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, Anna Chancellor, Ken Doughty

PRODUCER: Lee Thomas


SCRIPT: John McKay


EDITOR: Anne Sopel

MUSIC: Kevin Sargent


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 23, 2002 (special advance screenings May 17, 18, 19)


VIDEO RELEASE: October 30, 2002 (Also on DVD)

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