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Published: Thursday, 5/2/2002

Crush: Fine cast worthy of a better story


Andie MacDowell is an inconsistent actress, sometimes good, sometimes not. In the British drama Crush, she's unusually compelling.

Written and directed by John McKay, the film is too cliched to hold much promise - or interest - but it does have its moments.

In a picturesque, sun-drenched village, three fortysomething career women live, work, and get together often to moan about their unsuccessful love lives.

They are Kate (MacDowell), the American headmistress of the posh village school; Molly, a doctor, and Janine, the police chief, or whatever the British term is for the job.

One day Kate attends a funeral and falls in lust with the organist, a 25-year-old named Jed who happens to be one of her former students, and pretty soon they're frolicking in the bushes while the rest of the mourners sniff and sob.

Kate thinks it's a fling but it's not - on both sides. She and Jed fall in love, and when Jed proposes (after many scenes of sexual acrobatics), Kate accepts.

Molly and Janine disapprove; not only is Jed far too young for Kate, he's far too crude. So they set about trying to break up the romance. For Kate's own good, of course.

The scenes toward the middle of the movie are interesting as Kate struggles with the idea that a younger man could be interested in her, then wonders if she's really in love or simply desperate to get married.

If McKay had built on this premise, Crush could have been a fascinating look at a couple struggling to stay together in the face of a society that disapproves of May-December relationships when the woman is the December.

Instead, he dabbles in tragedy, then depression, then a corny ending when everything is sweetness and light again. Phooey, what a ripoff!

MacDowell is particularly luminous in the scenes with Kenny Doughty, who plays her young suitor. Doughty, apparently a newcomer, exudes a sensuality that makes Kate's initial attraction perfectly credible.

Anna Chancellor, who plays Molly, and Imelda Staunton as Janine are oddly likeable, despite their despicable behavior.

In fact, everyone in the movie gives a good performance, which makes it even more of a crime that they didn't have a decent story with which to show off their skills.

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