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Promising 'Crush' Takes a Bad Turn


John McKay's "Crush" begins as a captivating romantic comedy and then, at the very moment it's most involving, takes a wholly gratuitous and disastrous swerve and just keeps on going from bad to worse. Left in the lurch are three skillful actresses--Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton and Anna Chancellor--as a trio of fortysomething single women in England who gather nearly every weekend to commiserate with each other over their lucklessness in love and sex.

They live in a storybook Gloucestershire village right out of a Thomas Kinkade painting. MacDowell's Kate is the American headmistress of a clearly posh and ancient school. Chancellor's Molly, a brittle and elegant three-time divorcee, is a gynecologist. And Staunton's Janine is a pert police inspector who is either divorced or widowed, with a teenage son.

Never married, Kate is giving up hope when, during a funeral, her eyes lock with those of Jed (Kenny Doughty, a notable newcomer), a handsome 25-year-old organist. She doesn't recognize him as the former student she last saw when he was 14, but he knows her instantly. Almost as instantly they're off in the bushes together. Kate tells herself she has experienced a one-time-only thrill, but she has actually plunged headlong into a reckless romance.

When they learn what's going on, Molly and Janine fear for their friend's welfare, which is not unreasonable. But Molly is so upset--read downright jealous--about what she regards as an unsuitable relationship that she is determined to break up the romance. Janine knows Molly is ready to go too far but is putty in the hands of her arrogant, strong-willed friend. They behave in a manner that is entirely despicable, yet the picture proceeds all the way to an ever more contrived finish without Molly learning the full measure of her so-called friends' perfidy--and without any acknowledgement or comment on this state of ignorance.

What a shame McKay went for melodrama instead of continuing with an amusing yet also realistic account of how a somewhat older woman and a younger man cope with the age difference--which would be inconsequential were the man the older member of the couple. What a shame too that MacDowell has never been more radiantly beautiful and is as beguiling as the film is repellent. "Crush" is a lot nastier business than it is prepared to admit.

MPAA rating: R, for sexuality and language. Times guidelines: adult themes and a lot of frank sexual talk.


Andie MacDowell...Kate

Imelda Staunton...Janine

Anna Chancellor...Molly

Kenny Doughty...Jed

Bill Paterson...Gerald

A Sony Pictures Classics release of a FilmFour presentation in association with Film Council, Senator Film and Industry Entertainment of a Pipedream Pictures production. Writer-director John McKay. Producer Lee Thomas. Executive producers Paul Webster, Hanno Huth, Julia Chasman. Cinematographer Henry Braham. Editor Anne Sopel. Music Kevin Sargent. Costumes Jill Taylor. Production designer Amanda MacArthur. Art director John Reid. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

At selected theaters.

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