crush (2002)


director: john mckay

andie macdowell, imelda staunton, anna chancellor

Truth in advertising suggests that a warning be attached to John McKay's Crush, a film that in every way looks like what's known as "chick flick" but is, at heart, a work of remarkable bleakness.

Kate (Andie MacDowell) is single at forty, the headmaster of a private school in the Cotswolds, and prone to wandering into the baby section of stores and fondling the tiny clothes. Her friends Janine (Imelda Staunton) and Molly (Anna Chancellor) are divorced, and the three of them get together frequently for sob sessions, where they mull over their poor choices in men, identified merely as Mr. Sensitive, Boring Martin, and Mr. Unspeakable Lying Bastard.

Kate suddenly destroys the maudlin balance of their friendship one day when she embarks on a passionate affair with a former student. Jed (Kenny Doughty) is the new organist at the local funeral chapel, and within a shot or two of their eyes meeting, Kate is beneath Jed in the tall grass of the of the cemetery. Her friends hope it's just a fling, but Doughty's soulful eyes and persistence quickly turn their affair into a real thing, and they begin making wedding plans.

Her friends, the arch-cynic Molly in particular, are appalled, and begin plotting a way to destroy the romance, in the process shattering their own friendship and, unintentionally, getting poor Jed killed. By this point we are at the halfway point of the film.

Far from a "chick flick", Crush brings to mind unrelentingly nasty post-Shakespearean dramas with titles like Women Beware Women, where the most sympathetic characters usually die, and the initially reasonable protagonists we're meant to follow reveal themselves to be brimming with moral poison.

Men don't come off well - when not being given names like Little Crematorium Man, they end up like poor Gerald, the kindly vicar who secretly adores Kate, and who ends up jilted at the altar after, of course, getting vomited upon in lieu of "I do". Like those gruesome old dramas, the plot takes some unlikely twists, and the trio of friends end up together again, an ultimately suitable arrangement that, hopefully, will neutralize their essentially toxic natures.