Rush to Crush?
If they ever make a feature film of Sex and the City it will be too little, too late. The subject of sexually active women who travel in packs will have been done to death by then, although as with movies about horny teenage boys there will always be room for a good one.
Crush, the first feature by John McKay (not to be confused with Girls Town director Jim McKay), is a good one, though not as good as what may now be seen as the prototype of the genre, Waiting to Exhale.
Kate (Andie MacDowell), Molly (Anna Chancellor) and Janine (Imelda Staunton) meet weekly as the Sad Fuckers Club (the film's title until cooler heads prevailed) and pass around a trophy to the woman whose love life has been the most pathetic.
Aside from commercial considerations there's no dramatic reason for the presence of an American in the group, but she's lived in this Cotswolds village a long time and her origins are pretty much ignored.
Kate, who has never married, is headmistress of the local church school. Molly, a doctor, has had three husbands: "Mr. Gay, Mr. Schoolboy and Mr. Unspeakable Lying Bastard." Janine, a police inspector, is raising the teenage son of her sole marriage. All are in their 40s.
These miserable women love each other's company until a new church organist, Jed (Kenny Doughty) debuts at a funeral. How Kate can tell he has a cute ass when it's splayed over an organ bench is a mystery, but at the next SFC meeting she reports, "I had sex with a 25-year-old at a funeral yesterday— on a tombstone!" Not only is Jed young but he was Kate's student 11 years before and had a crush on her then. (Hence the title.)
To say Molly and Janine are jealous would be an understatement. They couch it in words of mockery and warning but it's obvious they would change places with Kate in a heartbeat. Suddenly she can no longer be honest with her friends if she's to continue seeing Jed, who says, "Once is an accident, two is a coincidence; three times is a thing."
Should Kate follow her heart or the advice of her envious chums? It's not as if she doesn't have an option in Gerald (Bill Paterson), the vicar, who offers, "We could look after each other." Would Kate rather have a man she can grow old with or one she can grow up with?
If you can answer that question for yourself you probably know what Kate's answer will be. But McKay's story doesn't end there, and there are more questions to be answered, especially whether Crush will ultimately be a movie about love or friendship.
MacDowell manages to hit many of the same notes she did in Harrison's Flowers, an entirely different kind of movie. Chancellor, in following the script, sends Molly beyond redemption. You want the other women to shoot her and put her out of their misery, but like the sitcom characters of Wendy Malick, Holland Taylor, Christine Baranski and the AbFab girls, to name a few, you love to hate her. Staunton has the least interesting role, a referee for the other two at best but mostly just a straw in the wind.
As for Doughty, he makes almost as strong an impression as Brad Pitt did in Thelma & Louise. It remains to be seen whether he has Pitt's range and staying power or is just a pretty face.
McKay skillfully orchestrates moods from low comedy to high tragedy in this story of three women who may be beaten down but can't be crushed.