Crush Review

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As far as high school romances and coming-of-age tales are concerned, Crush is one of the least gripping – largely because it shoots for an alarmingly low target. It’s a minimalist kind of film with scant story or aesthetic goals except to allow its delightful young stars to engage in some fairly entertaining, vulgar-infused conversations (and have its older cast members try the same albeit without success). The movie is about Paige (Rowan Blanchard), a young artist who ends up on her school’s sports team with two sisters Gabby (Isabella Ferreira) whom she has been crushing on for the longest time ever and AJ (Auliʻi Cravalho).* However, even this description gives the movie too much credit given there was no single issue all through its runtime.

The introduction features a colourful montage of hand-drawn social media marks such as sketched Instagram feeds despite the fact that they’re passing concerns both in Paige’s artwork and as social media. Certainly, Paige’s own introduction paints her as someone who cares deeply about art (it is how she says she sees reality and wants to join a summer program at CalArts) but these things just disappear from her story. When her school suspects Paige is responsible for graffiti all over campus walls talking about it online so she joins track rather than being suspended also trying to figure out who is behind it all. However these ideas come and go into nothingness very quickly and casually seeming like they are not important at all when the film soon becomes an adult perspective of what it thinks is an adolescent crush.

The only artistic movement takes place at this instance when he life-long crush walks into a room where Paige’s line of sight gets filled up by watercolours which subsequently envelop everything surrounding Gabby however; that’s probably the only thing approaching an authentic emotion during the whole movie – or perhaps any strong hormone fuelled teenage feeling for that matter. It is the single visual trick in its sleeve and it uses it more than anything else but on the other hand, this does not seem like enough because almost everything else about Crush is spoken rather than being felt.

Blanchard’s portrayal of Paige is an awkwardly hybrid mix of quirky and honest; Paige is sweet, but most people don’t seem to have fully developed personalities other than the jokes that are assigned to them. For example, her mother Angie (played by Megan Mullally) is very supportive of her daughter’s sexuality and almost ridiculously sex-positive which she demonstrates by giving her sex toys. It should be noted though that their relationship humor hangs on this feature which also appears to define Angie beyond her interactions with Paige—for one, in the immediate fling she has with Paige’s track coach Murray (Aasif Mandvi doing a John Turturro impression). Similarly, it seems like Dillon (Tyler Alvarez), Paige’s best friend, serves as the butt of two running gags: one where he and his girlfriend Stacey (Teala Dunn) cannot keep their hands off each other and another where they both run for class president while in reality there isn’t much else between him and Paige apart from him being the “best friend,” a kind of silhouette who pops up occasionally.

Among the supporting cast members Cravalho may be the only actor who really shines with charisma. As AJ in Crush, though, she provides just enough allure and vulnerability when you consider that like most other characters in Crush—AJ herself barely exists outside these lines —either about how mysterious AJ is or statements about what lies beneath this veil —Crush does not allow this character to perform any action or manifest certain behaviors because these help add flesh to it so as to bring out such a duality although Cravalho tries her best here. On the down side however, AJ and Gabby don’t always come across as sisters- mainly due to lack of interaction between them– nor do Paige’s eventual two competing crushes on them pose a great difficulty for either girls or Paige until well more than an hour into its 90 minute length.

For the duration of that hour or so, however, Paige’s own perspective — and her own infatuations! — seem to be inconsequential even though it is all they ever talk about as they move from one scene to another. To an adolescent, these feelings are like life or death issues but in Crush, those might as well be discussions on home works. The chemistry between Blanchard and Cravalho is very real at times but the film rarely allows this play out either physically or emotionally except for a brief moment where audiences may think they shared a bed during their school trip; this scene is cut short and does not go anywhere in the plot.

Crush is undeniably refreshing on paper as a high school movie that presents queerness as an everyday fact of life, and an ostensibly multicultural one at that, with characters whose labels span the entire gender and sexual spectra, and who are widely embraced by everyone; its cliques and “types” defy the conventions of Hollywood high school movies since the ‘80s- but still this queer film cannot help but appear anxious about its own representation of queer sexuality. While it is a running joke to see how Dillon and Stacey’s straight couple make out session’s border on sadomasochism, they are also the only ones shown in the film who consistently behave like real adolescents having genuine sexual feeling.

There isn’t a “need” for the movie to show its queer characters engaging in sex just as much as there isn’t one for them to do “anything worth noting (and often not)’’ however nothing they do or anything that camera captures about them or their perspectives seems to highlight what they might be going through considering its generally flat and distanced portrayal of sex and romance. A flashback sequence reveals how Paige met Gabby back in primary school when she had a simple childlike crush on her; almost ten years later, nothing appears to have changed much about her feelings although now she fancies AJ.

By the time Crush goes full circle into more familiar rom-com territory with a public reunion it has long since lost all momentum. It feels like it was made for nobody in particular except perhaps those dying for greater visibility on paper even if in practice it leads to few subtleties, laughs or three-dimensional human beings. Moreover, regrettably enough, Disney’s parent company can rely upon it now merely as proof that nominal representation can be done while concurrently vacillating on supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation. Of course Crush’s well-meaning filmmakers cannot be held responsible for this corporate malpractice but after all is said and done, this is the kind of movie that Mouse House can easily point to before its next big controversy.


Crush on Hulu is a young queer film in which nothing much occurs and the characters only seem to exist as vehicles for their witty lines. The young cast is wonderful, but as a story about adolescent crushes, it seldom evokes the sense of being young and in love.

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