Review by Emma Shane

© June 2002


Please note, Part 2 of my review contains details which will be a spoiler, so if you are intending to try and catch this film, I would advise you only to read Part 1, and not to read Part 2. It is intended only for those people reading this review for research purposes.


Crush - Review Part 1


What an Abbasolutely fabulous finale. The best thing about this film is that the storyline is full of so many twists and turns it is really rather gripping, full of many climaxes, so many, in fact, that one can’t help wondering what the film’s ultimately climax will be, and if it will actually be effective. Fortunately, with a bit of help from two notable bit-players it certainly is.


The film is well acted, especially by its three female leads, Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, and, Anna Chancellor. All three can certainly act, and play their characters convincingly. The film centres on, and indeed could be said to be carried by, the American actress, Andie MacDowell. She plays her part, Kate, the headmistress of the local school, pretty well, although one is left to wonder quite what an American is doing as the headmistress of a British School. She would not be so convincing in the role, however, if it were not for the strong supporting performances of the other two. Imelda Staunton manages to be pretty convincing as Janine, the town’s Police Chief, although it is comical to see as short and dumpy a woman as she in such a role, she proves that she is no dumb blond. I actually felt her performance was much better than when I saw her act Adelaide in Guys And Dolls. I especially enjoyed the scene where she was leading her men on an armed mission to apprehend some man with a gun. Really she should play more ‘smart woman’ roles. I was particularly impressed by Anna Chancellor’s performance as Molly, the town’s GP, who was very dismissive of her male patients who had fallen off their yachts or horses. Molly is one of those thrice-married super-bitch type characters, who has ended up well-off. Why, one wonders do these sort of women have to have not one failed marriage, but three?  It seems that few actresses have the ability to play these sort of roles with that spark of humanity necessary to make them convincing as sincere ‘best friends’ to one or more of the central characters. But Anna Chancellor proves to belong to that rare group (of which Louise Gold is certainly one and Louise Plowright very probably another) of those few actresses who can play that sort of role well. I don’t know whether Ms Chancellor can sing and dance, but if she can then she would probably be the right sort of actress for that role Susannah Fellows is currently inhabiting in Mamma Mia.


The film also includes two other major characters. Perhaps the most important of these is the young organ player played by Kenny Doughty. He plays the role well, although in the end one is never quite sure if one really knows the character at all, and perhaps that is the way it is meant to be.  There is also a vicar played by Bill Paterson. It is nice to see him actually acting a role, and a role of substance at that. In recent times he has tended to be known as an excellent voice-over, and seems to specialise in narrations of a certain historical and progressive theme, including videos of: The History Highgate, and, The Story Of Unity Theatre. - the latter by the way is well worth seeing if you are at all interested in that sort of thing.


The plot of Crush, in a nutshell, centres around these three women, all of about 40+, who meet up, about once a week, to eat chocolate, smoke, drink gin, and, discuss their, usually rather sad, relationships with men. They always vote on whose was the saddest, and she gets the lions share of the chocolate. Then Kate goes to a funeral, and falls head-over-heels in love with the young organist, whose English teacher she had been many years previously. Her two friends, especially Molly, completely disapprove and set out to break up the relationship, and restore their friendship to its old footing. The storyline takes a wide number of twists and turns, involving: Intercourse on gravestones, Searching of medical and police computer records, Credit card fraud, Weddings, Camcorders, Seduction, Road fatalities, Fainting school teachers, Police Raids, Pregnancy, and Dare-devil Vicars, to name but a few. So many, in fact, that the drama was gripping, one had no idea just what would happen next, or what the final climax would be.


Indeed there were so many possible climaxes, that I began to worry lest the ultimate climax would be a comedown. But it was here that two bit-players, Louise Gold and James Vaughan proved themselves to be excellent additions to the cast of the film. Though there parts are small, they are roles which benefit from being played by such good actors, so much so, that it is not wasting their undeniable talents to cast them in such parts. Mr Unaspeakable-lying-bastard, is a character who has been mentioned several times during the film, he was Molly’s second husband, and the one who left his credit-card behind. Now at last we see him in the flesh. To all intents and purposes, the character is rather stereotypical of the sort of bit-parts James Vaughan usually portrays in films or on television, the smooth, arrogant, politician/executive type (in this particular case a medic). However, he manages, far better than any other spectator in the scene, to convey a reaction to the film’s rather surprising climax, and in doing so, basically carries the background of that part of the scene. The role of Eleanor may be small, but is so absolutely vital to the plot, that for the ultimate climax to work, it is necessary to have it played by an actress who from the moment she steps into the scene commands the camera’s attention. Louise Gold is perfect for the task. Besides being a very commanding actress anyway, she has an almost unique scene-grabbing acting style (I can only think of one other actress who has displayed quite that characteristic - and even then not to the extent that Louise does). Sometimes that acting-style can, it is true, can distract a little. But here it used, as it should be, to the greater benefit of the drama. The moment she enters the scene she grabs it, and the audience is focused in exactly the right place for the thrilling, and very surprising ultimate climax.



Please note, Part 2 of my review contains details which will be a spoiler, so if you are intending to try and catch this film, I would advise you to stop reading here, and not to read Part 2, which is intended only for those people reading this review for research purposes.




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End of Crush Review Part 1




Please note, Part 2 of my review contains details which will be a spoiler, so if you are intending to try and catch this film, I would advise you to stop reading here, and not to read Part 2, which is intended only for those people reading this review for research purposes.



Crush - Review Part 2



The film opens with headmistress Kate, played by the film’s leading lady Andie MacDowell, telling off a pupil, for smoking. Once the pupil has gone from the room, she of course lights up herself. We then find Janine, the Police Chief, reprimanding a younger officer who disrupted an ex-girlfriends wedding, by raiding it (the joke of this will come later), and finally Molly, the doctor, examining a man who fell off his yacht. We are then introduced to watching all three woman together, at one of their regular meetings, to discuss their sad relationships with men. This is followed by Kate attending a funeral, where she is immediately smitten with the young organist, Jed, played convincingly enough by Kenny Doughty, and they promptly go and have intercourse on a tombstone.

                The other two are horrified at Kate falling for this much younger man, and set out to wreak the relationship (by this time Jed has moved in with Kate). Using their positions they try digging the dirt on him, and sending the information to Kate. It seems he has a conviction for possession with intent to supply. He also seems to have an abnormally active private life. After this they try taking Kate right away from it on a trip to Paris. Molly pretends she has been given the trip by a pharmaceutical company, but actually she is using her Ex-husband No 2 (Mr Unspeakable Lying Bastard)’s credit card. However, Kate runs away, back to Jed, and gets engaged. In desperation, at Molly tries to seduce Jed, it works better than she hoped, when Kate walks in on them. She throws Jed out, and he gets knocked down by a petrol tanker - is that supposed to be a message about the hazards of allowing HGV’s on country roads, I wonder?


With Jed gone, Kate goes and falls for the Vicar, whom Molly and Janine have frequently tried to set her up with, and gets engaged. Molly is furious, and eventually persuades Janine to act. In the middle of the ceremony Kate is violently sick, all over her fiancée. Janine raids the wedding and carts Kate off to Molly. Where they eventually discover Kate is pregnant, with Jed’s son. Molly admits that some of her actions may well have been through jealousy, well she has been unhappily married three times. The Vicar finds a woman who shares his passion for adventure sports to marry (Kate never really shared that). Not long after the birth, the trio are meeting at Kate’s house, and get to talking. In the intervening time a lot has happened: Janine is seeing someone, she initially met when he was arrested for robbing a post office “But we can’t make the charges stick”.


Now, at last, it is Molly’s turn. Feeling guilty, she went to a medics party “No men, just medics, and they’re married”. The first surprise is that her first husband turns up, with his new wife in tow. Then Mr Unspeakable-Lying-Bastard turns up, with a trophy wife in tow. It does not surprise Molly that he would have a small blond young wife, it did however surprise me a bit. Then Mr Gay (Molly’s third husband) turns up, and with a wife and kids in tow. The stage is clearly set for something to happen, but what? Suddenly in the shot is a woman, who isn’t blond, and, like Molly she’s tall. (She is of course Eleanor, played by Louise Gold, but we haven’t yet been told the character’s name). Immediately her presonce seems to have a commanding effect on the camera, the audience, and Molly. Whatever is about to happen has just got to be something to do with her. Then, Eleanor’s distinctive brown eyes meet Molly’s, and, the next moment is so clearly memorable, it could have happened in slow motion (except it didn’t), to the surprise of: the spectators, the audience, and Molly, they kiss!


The spectators reaction to these two women suddenly kissing passionately like that was best characterised by Mr Unspeakable-Lying-Bastard whose eyebrows shot up suddenly, in a manner that that actor has surely employed before as a means of reacting to such situations on film. In this case it seemed a rather appropriate action for a man who has just witnessed a woman he thought he knew intimately do something totally unexpected. It was by far the most effective performance from any of the actors playing the spectators.


The film has a few more frames to run, but none as spectacular as that climax, never-the-less loose ends do need tying up, at least in this film. Molly tells the other two that her new-found lover is called Eleanor and she’s a paediatrician with a private practice. Then Kate picks about the box of chocolates, and goes and throws it out into the garden, because as she says “We’re not sad any more.” And that seems a logical place to conclude the film.


Although Crush is well acted by its main players, especially its three leads: Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, and, Anna Chancellor. There had been so many twists and turns in the plot, that it would not have satisfactorily finished the film for them to be the instigators of the final twist. It seems to need to need a character who has not been seen before, and in fact we have one who has not even been mentioned before. But to bring a very significant new character in so late on in the film could present problems, just how do you get the audience to pay attention to that person, so they are focused in the right place for the climax? This film employs a perfect solution to that problem; by giving Louise Gold a good opportunity to use her almost unique scene-grabbing acting style to carry the scene off. But as an actress Louise Gold has one more gift that is a real asset in making the scene work. She can play extraordinary as if it is totally ordinary. I’m very glad to have seen this film, partly because it is so full of twists and surprises, and partly because it is not often you find a drama with a role so small that is sufficiently important to the plot to need to be really well played, and then to have it played by someone with the necessary style and technique to do it justice.



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