Alison Maclean is probably best known for directing Jesus' Son, which quite honestly didn't do a whole lot for me despite the fact that a lot of people were really 'wowed' by the film. To each their own. It wasn't a bad film by any stretch, I just don't know that I'll be going back to it again. A few years before that film though, Maclean helmed a sneaky little movie called Crush starring Marcia Gay Harden before she snatched up an Oscar for Pollack (and not to be confused with The Crush starring Alicia Silverstone, which kind of sucks).
Harden plays Lane, who along with Christina (Donogh Rees) is assigned with heading out to interview an author who works out of New Zealand named Colin Iseman (William Zappa… no relation to Frank that I know of). When the two ladies make the drive, they roll their car in a nasty car accident caused by Lane's irresponsible turn behind the wheel that leaves Christina with some serious brain damage, laying in the hospital. Lane takes off from the scene of the accident, and she decides to take on the interview alone. Once she does, she soon finds herself the object of affection for Iseman's underage daughter, Angela (Caitlin Bossley).
When Lane begins to seduce Colin, Angela becomes a woman scorned and soon finds out about Lane's responsibility as far as the accident is concerned and eventually she meets up with Christina and starts to play some head games of her own.
The first half hour or so of Crush at first seems like a bit of a mess. It's confusing, disjointed, and it doesn't really make a whole lot of sense as far as the character's motivations are concerned or as far as the narrative is concerned. Once things pick up though, and more pieces of the puzzle are put together, things fall into place and little by little it becomes very clear that the odd structuring choices of the film's beginning were not only completely intentional, but also a great way to build up towards the ending where it really all hits the fan.
Crush is a gorgeous looking film. Much of it set in some of New Zealand's countryside (the same area where the Lord Of The Rings trilogy was shot), Maclean and company do a fantastic job of capturing the area and using the scenery to really heighten the atmosphere of the film. The camera movements are stylish but never go so far as to emphasize style over substance and the cinematography by Dion Beebe (who recently got nominated for an ASC away for Collateral) captures the feel of the story very, very well.
Marcia Gay Harden is fantastic in the lead. She's everything a good femme fatale should be: sexy, sneaky, manipulative, dangerous, smart, and very easy to fall for. Her turn as Lane is handled very well, and seeing her perform along side New Zealand native Donogh Rees (who fellow nerds will recognize from Xena and Hercules!) is a joy.
The 1.85.1 anamorphic widescreen picture is pretty solid. Colors are just bold enough to look natural and aren't over saturated at all. Flesh tones look life like and very organic, as does the vegetation seen throughout. There's a nice level of detail present and there aren't any major problems with print damage, just a fine and natural looking coat of grain over top of the image. There is some mild edge enhancement present and some of the darker scenes and some of the blacks do exhibit some mild compression artifacts but these are never so bad as to distract from the film itself.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is about on par with the video transfer – in short, it's quite good. There are one or two moments where the dialogue could have been a touch clearer but it's never muddled so much that you can't understand what's being said. The background music and sound effects are mixed in against the talkier parts nicely and nothing overshadows anything else.
In addition to including the film's original theatrical trailer, Strand has also managed to toss in an audio commentary from director Alison Maclean and actress Marcia Gay Harden who describe some of the symbolism in the film as well as provide the usual interesting little anecdotes about what went on during film, some pre-production information, and some technical information. The two ladies go back and forth a fair bit which keeps the track moving along at a reasonably brisk pace, which always makes for a more interesting commentary track.
Strand has also supplied one of Maclean early short films, The Kitchen Sink, which is a creepy little fourteen minute long black and white movie that showcases the dark side of love. Maclean is also on hand for a reasonably interesting interview as well in which she discusses making the feature supplied on this DVD.
Crush took me by surprise. I expected a high brow snooty art-house film and ended up with a pretty gripping, quirky movie that kept me interested from start to finish. It's well paced, it's very well acted, and the story is nothing if not compelling. Strand's DVD release look and sounds just fine, and the extra features are interesting and complimentary to the feature. Highly Recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.