September 20, 2013
The Crush (1993)
Grade: 36/100

Director: Alan Shapiro
Stars: Cary Elwes, Alicia Silverstone, Jennifer Rubin

What it's about. Up and coming young reporter Nick (Cary Elwes) takes a promising magazine gig in a new town. He rents a guest house from a wealthy family whose members include a ravishing teen daughter, Darian/Adrian (Alicia Silverstone, making her feature debut) and her short-fuse father Cliff (Kurtwood Smith).

Since it is a movie, Darian/Adrian becomes infatuated with Nick, who is amazed at her intelligence but instead dates hottie brunette photographer Amy (Jennifer Rubin). This relationship enrages Darian/Adrian, whose behavior escalates into accusations of rape, and attempted murder.

Also in the cast are Darian/Adrian's school frenemy Cheyenne (Amber Benson) , Cliff's unimposing wife Liv (Gwynyth Walsh), and Nick's blunt and respected boss Michael (Matthew Walker).

How others will see it. The Crush drew negative reviews from critics, and was not a box office smash, though it has since undoubtedly become profitable for Morgan's Creek.

Surprisingly, The Crush was award-nominated. The benefactor was the MTV Movie Awards, which focused on Silverstone's starmaking performance. Considering MTV's audience, it appears that the movie's effective demographic is teen girls, who enjoy the movie for perhaps the wrong reason: the girl in the romance takes charge. She liberates herself from conventional dating restrictions.

It has to be admitted, the movie has one other natural demographic, those who are strongly attracted to the 16-year old Alicia Silverstone, whose sultry, scheming bad girl here is the antithesis of her more famous good girl role in Clueless. This audience knows that The Crush is a bad movie. But that is irrelevant to their motivations.

How I felt about it. On the face of it, this is another version of Fatal Attraction, though this time the psycho woman is a Lolita type half the age of the victim. However, this facile conclusion is incorrect.

It turns out that the film's sole writer and director, Alan Shapiro, once rented a guest house when he was 25, where he encountered his landlord's teen daughter, named Darian. Shapiro unwisely promoted The Crush as based on his own real-life experience, and in the theatrical release, Silverstone's character was named Darian. (This was dubbed to Adrian in later cable and television showings, after Shapiro settled a lawsuit filed by Darian's family).

Thus, The Crush is not stale, cynical hackery after all. Instead, it is Shapiro's belated and intense revenge on a teen girl he briefly knew. This explains why Shapiro's stand-in, Cary Elwes, is always the deer caught in the headlights, while Darian/Adrian rapidly evolves from a harmless brat into an insane serial killer.

Shapiro's personal and unconventional perspective (society nearly always blames the adult in such situations) helps explain the film's structural problems. Namely, why does Darian/Adrian fall in love with the uncharismatic Nick to begin with? Since she is so smart, why doesn't she simply cultivate a friendship until she turns 17 (a bit more than two years away) and is able to begin a consensual relationship with him? How can any 14-year-old be as much a genius as the girl in this film?

Moving on to performances, Silverstone made waves with her plum role and is the sole reason why anyone pays attention to the film. She gets a pass. Kurtwood Smith's father character has strong similarities to his later role in the sitcom "That 70's Show." He also gets a pass. Jennifer Rubin is hot enough to make any man choose her over Silverstone. We find it hard to believe she has the hots for Shapiro's stand-in Nick, but we suggest that is the director's fault.

That leaves Nick, the ambitious young reporter who bags a perfect ten brunette on his first day at a new job. He needs to cut a deal with Darian/Adrian, leaving the door wide open for dating her when she turns 17, while hoping she'll change her mind before then. (It's a bad idea to have a relationship with a crazy person.) In any event, it is advantageous to have the free services of the world's most intelligent proofreader.

Instead, he makes Darian/Adrian her enemy, a truly bad decision, since the law and society casts her as innocent. Her genius and obsession makes her extremely dangerous. Nick is a schmuck who, because it is a movie, is an unwitting chick magnet. The unlikeliness of the character can't be blamed on Cary Elwes. Again, it is the director's error.

The film goes off the rails during its cliffhanger scene, where Nick the hero must rescue Cheyenne from the merry-go-round while fending off Silverstone-as-Carry-Nation and her equally insane father, who highly values the daughter's virginity since he can't have it for himself.

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