Some fine screen chemistry between its leads and a spikey, offhandedly comic script by young writer-director John McKay put spice into "Crush," a romantic comedy centered on three mature, sex-starved women in a genteel English village that's an entertaining night out at the movies.

Kate - Andie MacDowell Janine - Imelda Staunton Molly - Anna Chancellor Jed - Kenny Doughty Rev. Gerald Marsden - Bill Paterson

Some fine screen chemistry between its leads and a spikey, offhandedly comic script by young writer-director John McKay put spice into “Crush,” a romantic comedy centered on three mature, sex-starved women in a genteel English village that’s an entertaining night out at the movies. Likely to be dubbed “Two Weddings and Some Funerals,” given its storyline and the presence of Andie MacDowell as one of the leads, pic is in fact less slick than the ’94 pic and not as flawlessly constructed. However, its overall sunny disposition and immensely likable characters peg this for some very cozy theatrical business, if properly marketed and positioned.

Kate (MacDowell), Janine (Imelda Staunton) and Molly (Anna Chancellor) are three friends in their early 40s who meet regularly to swap stories about their hopeless love lives. (Pic’s original, much more apt title was “Sad Fuckers Club,” the first two words being Brit slang for “losers.”) An expat American, Kate is headmistress of a tony private school that requires her to maintain a spotless reputation; Janine is a hard-assed detective with the local police force; and Molly is a well-heeled doctor with a string of failed marriages.

The three characters’ backgrounds and easy friendship are established from the get-go as we hear their latest confessions between their binges on alcohol, chocolate and cigarettes: Molly’s disastrous date with a fellow doctor, Janine’s drunken snog with a nerdy night-school colleague and Kate’s latest attack of the baby blues.

Breezy tone, sustained by Kevin Sargent’s busy score, is maintained as the plot kicks into gear without any delay. At the funeral of her predecessor, Kate spots a handsome young organist with some racy boots who turns out to be one of her former pupils; before you can say crematorium, she and Jed (Kenny Doughty) are enjoying a quickie in the long grass in front of the church.

Ribbed by her two friends for cradle-snatching a 25-year-old, Kate initially shrugs off the dalliance. But soon she and Jed are secretly getting it on like rabbits — until Molly and Janine (in one of the pic’s biggest laughs) literally walk in on them in flagrante delicto.

A small dinner party to officially introduce Jed goes badly, with Molly and Janine still convinced it is not a match made in heaven. However, everything the well-intentioned friends can do to capsize the relationship — from digging up Jed’s drug record to carting Kate off to Paris for a spell of sex ‘n’ shopping — only strengthens the bond between the lovers. When Jed proposes to Kate, she accepts.

It’s at this point, about an hour in, that McKay manages the difficult task of turning a lively sex comedy into a romantic one, sufficiently convincing the viewer of the strength of the central relationship. Given subsequent developments, it’s important to believe not only in Jed’s genuine love for the older Kate but also the latter’s deep affection.

However, the cynical Molly simply won’t give up, and tries to seduce Jed in the local church, with Janine secretly taping the scene. The outcome throws the three women’s friendship completely for a loop and only when Molly comes up with yet another scheme to save Kate from a disastrous decision do they rediscover their original solidarity.

After teasing the viewer along with a snappy, tartly observed romantic comedy, McKay takes a huge chance two-thirds of the way in by completely reshuffling the deck and going for a slower, darker tone. The gambit largely succeeds thanks to the residual sympathy for the characters, but the pic still has a couple of reels prior to the final act (and neat coda) in which the previously secure tone wobbles for a while.

Without dominating the movie in any way, MacDowell is absolutely assured in the part of the headmistress-with-an-itch, handling McKay’s slightly goofy mixture of one-liners and eccentric character traits with aplomb. Staunton’s severe, dumpy policewoman is the most low-key of the three but the experienced character actress manages to hold her own between her more demonstrative co-leads.

However, the real revelation here is Chancellor, a mostly TV actress who, on the bigscreen, has never been given the bigger parts she deserves. Her waspish, well-heeled doc gets some of the best lines in the script, and it is her character which is the real motor to the whole movie.

In his first major role, Doughty is fine as Jed, with a sufficient physical presence and managing to handle his declarations of love with simple conviction. Veteran Bill Paterson, as the local vicar with the longtime hots for Kate, makes much of a supporting role.

Technical credits are smooth, with Henry Braham’s lensing of the Gloucestershire locations catching the flavor of a comfortable rural English community without overdosing on the picturesque. Anne Sopel’s editing allows the performances to breathe naturally.



Production: A FilmFour Distributors release of a FilmFour presentation, in association with the Film Council, Senator Film and Industry Entertainment, of a Pipedream Pictures production. (International sales: FilmFour Intl., London.) Produced by Lee Thomas. Executive producers, Paul Webster, Hanno Huth, Julia Chasman. Co-producer, Elinor Day. Directed, written by John McKay.

Crew: Camera (Fujicolor, Panavision widescreen), Henry Braham; editor, Anne Sopel; music, Kevin Sargent; production designer, Amanda MacArthur; art director, John Reid; costume designer, Jill Taylor; sound (Dolby Digital), Keith Tunney, Mike Prestwood Smith; assistant director, Susie Liggat; casting, Michelle Guish. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 11, 2001. Running time: 111 MIN.

With: Kate - Andie MacDowell Janine - Imelda Staunton Molly - Anna Chancellor Jed - Kenny Doughty Rev. Gerald Marsden - Bill PatersonWith: Caroline Holdaway, Joe Roberts, Josh Cole, Gary Powell, Christian Burgess.

More Film

  • Joker movie

    With 'Ad Astra,' 'Joker' Likely, Venice Set for Strong Showing by U.S., Bolstered by Streamers

    Brad Pitt space odyssey “Ad Astra,” Noah Baumbach’s untitled new project, “Joker” with Joaquin Phoenix, Tom Harper’s “The Aeronauts,” Fernando Meirelles’ “The Pope,” the new “Rambo” installment, and heist thriller “The Burnt Orange Heresy,” starring Mick Jagger as a reclusive art dealer, all look bound for the Venice Film Festival, sources tell Variety. The fest [...]

  • CGV's Massive Imax Screen Order Shows

    CGV's Massive Imax Screen Order Shows Optimism for Chinese Exhibition

    Korean cinema giant CGV has signed a deal with Imax to install a further 40 giant screens in movie theaters in China. The deal suggests that China’s multiplex building boom still has some way to run, and that at least one Korean company is still willing to invest in China, despite China’s currently boycott of [...]

  • BAFTA headquarters at 195 Piccadilly, London

    BAFTA Undertakes Major Renovation of Its London Headquarters

    BAFTA has undertaken a major renovation of its London headquarters that will double the building’s capacity and increase space devoted to the British academy’s programs to promote skills training and new talent. Work has already begun on the $31 million overhaul, which is expected to take two years. In the interim, BAFTA will relocate its [...]

  • Andhadhun

    Booming Digital Lifts Eros Indian Film Distribution Giant

    Eros International, India’s largest and most controversial film distributor, says that its digital revenues now outstrip conventional theatrical and syndication revenues. Its Eros Now streaming platform claims 18.8 million paying subscribers. The New York-listed company reported annual results that were distorted by multiple adjustments to presentation. Reported revenues in the year to end of March [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    Second Huayi Brothers Film Is Canceled as Company's Losses Mount

    Still reeling from the cancellation of the theatrical release of its blockbuster “The Eight Hundred,” production studio Huayi Brothers has been hit with another setback: Its comedy “The Last Wish” has also been quietly pulled from China’s summer lineup. Both films have fallen afoul of China’s increasingly heavy-handed censors. The unwelcome development comes as Huayi [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content