On April 2nd, 1993, The Crush hit North American theaters, introducing the world to Alicia Silverstone. The Crush itself was a relatively minor success, grossing just over $13 million in North American theaters. It represented the latter part of a cycle of erotic and stalker-based thrillers that were released in the wake of the success of Fatal Attraction (1987). In fact, The Crush is probably best described as Fatal Attraction for the MTV crowd. Yet it proved to be a breakout role for Silverstone who would go on to star in the hit teen comedy Clueless two years later and a couple of Aerosmith music videos (the less said about Batman and Robin, the better).
The Princess Bride star Cary Elwes plays Nick Eliot, an up-and-coming writer with a new job at a hip magazine, a beautiful girlfriend, and the perfect accommodations in the guest house of the wealthy Forrester family. At an evening garden party, Nick meets the Forrester’s 14-year-old daughter, Darian. She’s bright, precocious, and develops an instant crush on the older man living in her parents’ guest house. The innocent crush takes on an increasingly sinister tone as bad things begin happening to anyone who poses a threat to Darian’s dream of being with Nick, and that includes the object of her affections.
The Crush is Fatal Attraction for the MTV Crowd
The Crush probably didn’t feel generic when it was first released. Unfortunately, in the 25 years since its release, we’ve seen several a healthy dose of similarly-themed ‘stalker’ movies, From SwimFan to The Boy Next Door to The Roommate, every generation gets their very own ‘ crazy stalker’ thriller. Of course, it’s hard to argue that The Crush wasn’t a pretty derivative movie even in 1993. It followed at the tail end of a wave of psychological thrillers like The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Single White Female, each following a fairly similar blueprint. A regular protagonist meets a seemingly normal, if not exceptional in some way, individual who suddenly shifts from sane to crazy with perhaps a few hints that something is amiss. The villain progressively sabotages the main character’s life. In turn, the protagonist makes increasingly stupid choices that call their innocence into question.
There is nothing inherently bad about the movie.
Everything is eventually set right in a convoluted and convenient climax where the villain is killed or expelled. The Crush doesn’t offer much new to this formula. In fact, it’s almost blandly inoffensive in its workman-like connecting of the above plot points. There is nothing inherently bad about the movie. To some extent, its lack of suspense and tension are offset by a certain technical competence. Most viewers will probably enjoy it while watching and then instantly forget it 15 minutes after it’s over. Yes, it’s a cookie-cutter thriller, but it’s not without some charm.
The Crush Dated By Outdated Gender Politics
Unfortunately, not all films age well. Some fans and critics will argue that art should be considered within the context in which it was released. But sometimes a film just ages poorly. And The Crush has not aged well. It’s not like Fatal Attraction wasn’t controversial when it was released in the 1980s. That movie drew criticism for its demonization of a sexually liberated woman and was considered to be part of a set of 1980s ‘backlash’ films to the progressive 1970s.
Yet perhaps the worst problem with The Crush is how lightly it lets off its protagonist, Nick Eliot.
Today, in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, The Crush feels very outdated. Its ‘Lolita-like’ sexualization of a teenaged Silverstone is uncomfortable at times. Like Fatal Attraction, this teen thriller seems intent on demonizing intelligent, strong women. Yet perhaps the worst problem with The Crush is how lightly it lets off its protagonist, Nick EIiot. At worst, The Crush suggests he exercised ‘bad judgment’ rather than exploited a 14-year-old girl. In 2018, The Crush would probably tank hard with most young viewers.
Alicia Silverstone’s Big Break
Arguably, The Crush’s most noteworthy achievement is its introduction of Alicia Silverstone to fame. Not surprisingly, Silverstone steals the movie. She shows obvious talent and charisma in her role as Darian Forrester, shining with what little she is given in the screenplay. If nothing else, The Crush plays as a good enough vehicle to justify Silverstone’s rise to fame.
Veteran actor Cary Elwes (Saw) does just fine with his role, which doesn’t demand much more than looking constantly frustrated and befuddled. As Darian’s father, Kurtwood Smith looks as disapproving and angry as he does in almost every role, leading one to wonder if the man is ever truly happy. And Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans can get excited with an early role for Amber Benson. Fortunately, all the characters moved on to better things. SIlverstone had Clueless, Elwes got Saw, Kurtwood Smith found That 70s Show, and Benson landed a role in Buffy.
The Crush a Mildly Stylish But A Run-of-the-Mill Thriller
Generally, The Crush is not really as bad as reviews suggest. For the time period in which it was released, it was stylish and paced well enough to play to the MTV crowd. From its lukewarm suspense to its milder Lolita undertones, The Crush was safe stuff for teens in the 90s. Overall, it was a good 90-minute diversion for viewers but not much else. Yes, younger viewers today will probably take a lot of issues with the film’s outdated gender politics, but that’s a good thing.
THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C+