Rated R, 115 min. Directed by John McKay. Starring Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, Anna Chancellor, Kenny Doughty, Bill Paterson.
Crush, by first-time writer-director John McKay, is the kind of movie that gives “chick flicks” a bad reputation. This gal-pal British import lacks the courage to follow through on its narrative implications, and plays like a wan romantic comedy that, alternately, might have been titled Two Near Weddings and a Couple of Funerals. The heart of the story is the friendship between three professional, single women in their 40s: never-married schoolmistress Kate (MacDowell), cynical and multi-divorced physician Molly (Chancellor), and divorced single parent and police inspector Janine (Staunton). The three women gather in a weekly ritual they call the Sad Fuckers Club, during which they drink, cut loose, trash men, and lament their own sorry love lives. Apart from the cynicism and bawdy language, the Club is the fount of the female bonding experience that's so essential to movies of this sort. MacDowell's Kate is the kind of externally prim role model who harbors a passionate soul beneath her classic good looks. Her Mutt-and-Jeff friends range from the statuesque and promiscuous doctor and the dumpy but sensitive policewoman. All three are united in their belief that it is better to remain single than to settle for a mate who has “nothing wrong with him.” (Yet, one suspects that if they truly believed it's better to remain single, there would be no need for a Sad Fuckers Club and the gloomy resignation to their fortysomething status.) Things take a turn for the Douglas-Sirkian when Kate meets up with a former student half her age. Jed is the organist at a funeral, and before you can say, “teacher's pet,” the two are out back in the church graveyard sampling the young lad's organ. What Kate first regarded as a momentary fling quickly grows into a mutually shared passion, but Kate's friends and community scoff at the May-December romance -- just as Jane Wyman's country-club friends scorned her love affair with her much younger gardener Rock Hudson in Sirk's seminal weepie, All That Heaven Allows. Whereas Sirk's middle-class community only gossiped and patronized, Kate's best friends take a more meddlesome and proactive approach toward breaking up the deliriously happy couple. Of course, their vicious attack on Kate's happiness is forgiven by the end, as are the tragic consequences of their actions. It's here that the last strands of narrative logic and realism are tossed out the window in favor of the film's dishonest portrait of female bonding as the overriding impulse of these three characters. It also implies that the women will only find happiness within the disgruntled group pity of the Sad Fuckers Club. Despite its muddled message, Crush seems to play strongly among female-centric audiences. The performances are winning, and Kenny Doughty makes the best studmuffin debut since Brad Pitt in Thelma & Louise. Distributor Sony Pictures Classics is wise to release this right now in a shrewd counter-programming move against the onslaught of the summer movie season with its rush of live-action cartoon blockbusters and noisy, testosterone-fueled blow-'em-ups. Crush will not eliminate boy-movie bonanza at the summer box office, but it should provide an unfortunately obvious alternative for girls' night out everywhere.
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