Friendships are pulverized in `Crush'

Andie MacDowell stands out in this mostly irritating film

May 10, 2002|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

SUN SCORE

( * 1/2 - ONE AND ONE-HALF STAR)

Crush is the kind of movie that gives friendship a bad name.

It's a pity, too, because the film offers Andie MacDowell her best role to date. As an expatriate American living in England and serving as headmistress of a rural school there (how she came to cross the big pond is never really addressed), MacDowell is given the rare opportunity of being called on to be more than a pretty face and endearing presence. She's good, proving there's plenty of there there for good directors to tap into. Her performance - not her character, but her performance - is the only thing that redeems this irritating, cloying film.

Loutish in tone and shallow in sentiment, first-time writer-director John McKay introduces us to three friends whose primary pastime is seeing who can come up with the most maudlin true-life sob story. An aura of self-pity envelops this film like a blanket, and those who have little patience for that sort of thing had better look for their entertainment elsewhere.

MacDowell's Kate is the apex of this friendly triangle that also includes Molly (Anna Chancellor), the local sheriff, and Janine (Imelda Staunton), a doctor. As accomplished as these three women are, they are not happy, for their lives are woefully lacking in romance.

Ah, but how quickly things can change. All it takes for Kate is one look at young hunk Jed (Kenny Doughty), and her heart goes all aflutter. Of course, this won't be the easiest, most conventional of romances: Jed was once one of her students, and the small-town gossips will have a field day when their relationship comes to light. But consequences be darned.

Turns out that town gossip is the least of Kate's problems. Janine, who's chronically self-centered, rude and pushy, takes not one bit to this relationship, and convinces Molly that they have a sacred duty to force Kate to see the error of her ways.

A colleague suggested that Crush is nothing more than Sex and the City moved to a rural landscape and slapped with a British accent, but I'm afraid that's not true. True, the women of the HBO series spend an inordinate amount of time discussing relationships and dissecting them, but at least you get the feeling they hang together because they want to; in Crush, one suspects the friends remain devoted to each other because no one else will suffer them.

And then there's the matter of Kate's romantic awakening, which is pretty inexplicable. What attracts her in the first place? Sure, Jed is young and disheveled and not-all-that-engaged in what's going on around him, but is that enough to attract this beautiful, intelligent woman? Perhaps sensing that problem, McKay includes a scene of Jed playing a church organ, during which he shows Kate how he can get people to react in certain ways merely by playing certain notes.

Jed's playing reduces Kate to tears, and apparently convinces her that this kid is something special. A relationship based on the ability of one partner to manipulate the other - now there's a couple with a future.

But Crush goes most spectacularly wrong at the end, when one friend wrongs another so spectacularly that forgiveness should not even be possible. Suffice to say the film ends happily, which it has no business doing. Even if Crush has any convictions, it certainly doesn't have the courage of them.

Crush

Starring Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, Anna Chancellor

Directed by John McKay

Released by Sony Pictures Classics

Rated R (language, sexuality)

Running time 112 minutes

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