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Movie Reviews by Toby White and Alice Castle

Starring: Andie MacDowell, Imelda Staunton, Anna Chancellor, Kenny Doughty
Director: John McKay

Review by Toby White

Amongst the reams of studio movies that proliferate our screens and the lesser but daring indie flicks that occasionally receive airtime, every so often comes along a film that makes one wonder how it managed to get out there. I’m not implying that these are bad necessarily; on the contrary, CRUSH is a great film. In fact, it’s because it’s a great film that makes it a bit of an anomaly. You see, it’s an indie film, yet has all the hallmarks of a well-made, solidly cast, high production value studio piece – which makes one wonder why it was never picked up and made by the big boys at the script stage. And better for it that it wasn’t, in fact.

Story-wise, it’s an original spin on a well-worn genre: the romantic comedy. Kate (MacDowell) is a headmistress of a girls’ preparatory school in the Cotswolds in the English countryside. She meets one of her ex-pupils, Jed (Kenny Doughty), and the two embark on a passionate love affair that culminates in their imminent announcement of marriage. Naturally, there’s uproar, the most part from her two friends, Molly (Anna Chancellor) and Janine (Imelda Staunton). It’s just not the done thing for a 40-something in such a close rustic community to enter into such a scandalous affair. That said, more out of jealousy than social consciousness – they originally bonded by their mutual failures in love and relationships – Molly and Janine set about to rock Kate’s boat.

The result is a delightful comedy with tragic elements and bittersweet home truths that is striking in its maturity. I say this because John McKay, the writer-director, is a first-timer and a young man at that. His analysis, therefore, into the exigencies of desperate 40-something women is clever and insightful. It makes those young men of us look forward to meeting similar single and desperate forty-somethings if these women are anything to go by. But I digress. Now, if you’re expecting a flourish of a first time director pulling out all the stops I must warn you that there’s no visual flair to this film, no fancy gimmicks, camera work or effects trickery – save the odd quirky flashback moment – just a wonderful story, well played and executed with a modesty that other more experienced film-makers could even learn from. Perhaps this is why the big boys never took it on.

Admittedly, there are elements that don’t quite hit the mark, making farcical certain situations that ultimately then lack any plausibility but then underneath it all, this is a comedy and comedy is often the hardest thing to get right because there are so many opinions on what is funny. But there’s more to this than a few hit and miss gags. What’s important here is that from the moment you sit down in the cinema, there’s something about this film that is just so absorbing – the moods one goes through watching this, compounded by pitch-perfect performances just make for utterly engaging viewing. One scene in particular sets the tone, the moment Kate falls in love with Jed as he demonstrates how he can affect his audience’s emotions by the way he plays his organ. I should say at this point that he is the organist in the local church.

5 out of 6 stars
Review by Alice Castle

A forty-something female buddy movie written by a man – not an obvious recipe for success – but what’s been described as ‘sex in the Cotswolds’ is funny in parts. Kate (Andie MacDowell), a headmistress, Janine (Imelda Staunton), the local police chief and Molly (Anna Chancellor), a GP, get together once a week to bemoan the lack of men in their lives. As they pass round the chocs and red wine, the three decide who should win ‘the saddo of the week award’, discussing past loves and potential new partners. Kate usually wins the prize, being the least adventurous of the three in terms of amorous adventure, but all that is about to change.

Meeting former pupil Jed, an organist in the local crematorium, Kate finds herself falling in love with the most unsuitable of partners and finds herself the victim of lots of ‘organ’ type jokes. Both female friends – and national statistics in fact – condemn the love affair. Only the other week a report was published which says that large age gaps between a woman and a younger man signals zero success in the relationship department. But Kate is undeterred and before long the prissy headmistress is embroiled in a passionate love affair with a cardboard cut-out toy-boy. Her friends though set out to wreck the relationship before anybody gets hurt.

The best thing about this film is the gorgeous English rural landscape, no doubt selected for the American audience, though it didn’t seem to work for Helen Mirren and Sid Owen in GREENFINGERS last year. Anna Chancellor is great as the bitchy best friend, and Andie suitably fragrant in linen pastels, tendrils of hair making her more rose-like than the two supporting English actresses. As The First Wives Club becomes Three Women And A Baby the film rather irritated me. Why should three such intelligent women feel so incomplete without a man and an infant suckling at their bosom?

3 out of 6 stars