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‘The Crush’ (R)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
April 05, 1993

In Alan Shapiro's cheaply titillating film "The Crush," a physically and intellectually precocious 14-year-old girl named Darian becomes erotically obsessed with Nick, the 28-year-old journalist renting the guest house on her family's land.

Right off, we're not sure what to make of this. Is it a new installment of the Amy Fisher story, or "Fatal Attraction" meets "Mister Rogers"? Is it thinly disguised kiddie porn or just flat-out kiddie porn?

Either way, there's something scuzzy about the whole exercise.

At first, Nick (Cary Elwes) is vain enough to be flattered by this seductive Lolita's attentions. He sees no harm in letting Darian (Alicia Silverstone) call him "darling" or run around his place in her itsy bikini. She's just a kid. Then one night she turns up the heat and starts kissing him and sucking his fingers and telling him not to be afraid of her.

Then a little light bulb flashes on inside Nick's head: Jailbait!

But then Nick, who wears a pair of bookish, tortoise-shell-rimmed specs, is usually a little slow on the uptake. He might have noticed that Darian had naughty designs on him earlier in the film when she managed somehow to play classical piano and suck her thumb at the same time. And half wiggle out of her best Sunday dress.

After the kiss, Nick's life quickly becomes a living hell, especially after his normal-aged girlfriend (Jennifer Rubin) starts getting the evil eye from Darian, who seems eager to see the older woman shake hands with a wasp's nest.

All this is supposed to be funny. Or at least scary funny, and that includes the girl's erotomania, which drives her to accuse Nick of raping her, which then lands him in jail.

The movie is virtually an invitation to child abuse. In shot after shot, Shapiro pans his camera up one side of Silverstone's body and down the other as if it were perfectly all right for us to visually caress the thighs of a 14-year-old. Or if it weren't, the movie was giving us its special permission. Just this once.

But the filmmakers may have misjudged the limits of our patience when they dangled a 14-year-old cupcake under our noses. My guess is that most people will find the whole business creepy, and even creepier still the people who made it.

"The Crush" is rated R for sensuality and children involved in adult situations.

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