On April 2nd, 1993, The Crush hit North American theaters and introduced 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.
Fatal Attraction for the MTV Crowd
The Crush probably didn’t feel quite as generic when it was first released as it does today. In the 25 years since it hit theatres we’ve seen several similarly-themed ‘stalker’ films including SwimFan, The Boy Next Door, The Roommate, and Obsessed, to name a few. Every generation seems destined to get their ‘ crazy stalker’ film.
Of course, it’s hard to argue that The Crush wasn’t a pretty derivative film even in 1993. It was released 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 narrative 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. 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 film. It’s lack of suspense and tension are offset by the film’s technical competence. Most viewers will probably enjoy it while watching and then instantly forget it 15 minutes after it’s over.
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 film 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. Today, in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp, The Crush feels very outdated. Its ‘Lolita-like’ sexualization of of a teenaged Silverstone is more than little disconcerting. Like Fatal Attraction, the film seems intent on demonizing intelligent, strong women. Yet perhaps the worst problem with The Crush is how lightly its protagonist, Nick EIiott, is let off the hook. At worst, the film seems to suggest 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
The most noteworthy aspect of The Crush is the role it played in catapulting Alicia Silverstone to fame. She shows obvious talent and charisma in her role as Darian Forrester, shining with what little she is given in the screenplay. Cary Elwes, a strong character actor, is 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.
A Run-of-the-Mill Thriller
The Crush is not really as bad as the review seems to suggest. I worked in a video store when it was released and it was a popular rental among customers. No one had anything particularly bad to say about it. Then again I don’t recall many customers raving about it either. And that probably best sums up The Crush – it was a good 90-minute diversion for viewers but not much else. 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+