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

With: Caroline Holdaway, Joe Roberts, Josh Cole, Gary Powell, Christian Burgess.

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 story-line and Andie MacDowell as one of the leads, pic is less slick than the '94 one and not as flawlessly constructed. But 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 private school; 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 start as we hear their latest confessions between their binges on alcohol, chocolate and cigarettes. Breezy tone is sustained by Kevin Sargent's busy score.

At the funeral of her predecessor, Kate spots a handsome young organist 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. 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 lovers' bond. When Jed proposes to Kate, she accepts.

It's at this point that McKay manages the difficult task of turning a lively sex comedy into a romantic one, convincing the viewer of the strength of the central relationship.

But 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 for a loop.

After teasing the viewer along with a snappy, tartly observed romantic comedy, McKay takes a huge chance 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 in which it wobbles for a while.

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 but she manages to hold her own.

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

In his first major role, Doughty is fine as Jed, with a sufficient physical presence. Vet Bill Paterson, as the local vicar with the longtime hots for Kate, makes much of a supporting role.

Tech credits are smooth, with Henry Braham's lensing of Gloucestershire catching the flavor without overdosing on the picturesque. Anne Sopel's editing allows the performances to breathe naturally.
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Title Annotation:Review
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:May 21, 2001
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