Saturday, August 23, 2014

In her delicious screen debut - THE CRUSH - flash-in-the-pan Alicia Silverstone proves that as an actress she was always 'Clueless.'

The Crush a 1993 gigglefest about a teen psycho-nymphet who makes life a living hell for the twice-her-age writer who's renting out her parents' guest house, is a fabulous Bad Movie gem. Alicia Silverstone plays this Lolita-ish minx -- think Poison Ivy in a Wonderbra -- who one second is displaying herself nude to renter Cary Elwes and the next is trying to murder his photographer girlfriend, Jennifer Rubin, by shoving swarms of buzzing wasps into a darkroom's ventilation system. We'd guess that Silverstone, who rapidly exhausts her repertoire of three expressions (coy, steamy, wacko), honed her acting licks studying the oeuvre of Cybill Shepherd. When she chirps lines at Rubin like, "Don"t worry, Amy, some guys really like girls with small breasts," we can only hope for Silverstone's sake that some guys like girls with teensy talent. And we'd guess that Elwes, who rapidly exhausts his repertoire of one expression (self-enchanted), honed his acting licks by studying the oeuvre of Ryan O'Neal. Just like O'Neal in What's Up, Doc? -- but that movie was intended as a comedy -- Elwes hopes to pass himself off as an intellectual by donning specs. Indeed, when Silverstone finds him chomping on a cigar while writing, he explains, preposterously, "Helps me think."

But it's in its crackpot plotting and kamikaze ripoffs of other moviemakers that The Crush attains Bad Movie nirvana. When Elwes can't hack a Pique magazine assignment about a Michael Milkenesque arbitrager, 14-year-old Silverstone secretly rewrites his story so brilliantly that it becomes a career-maker for him. Later, explaining her actions, Silverstone -- who sounds to us like she's learned every word of her dialogue phonetically--says, "Your split infinitives put such stress on the adverbs."

For plot reasons, Elwes's character just up and becomes stupid, which the actor does manage to convey. Long after Silverstone has etched "c-cksucker" onto the hood of his car, made a room into a candle-lit shrine to him and phoned him to say, "Guess what? Got my period. Definitely not pregnant," you'll be screaming aloud, "Ever think of moving, Cary?" Of course, if he did, we wouldn't get to savor such prize moments as Silverstone cooing, "Ever do a virgin?" Or the scene in which the heroine's rich daddy, wielding a pair of pliers, tells Elwes what he plans to do to the horny guys his little girl will soon attract: "Some friggin' kid'll be standin' there with his hard-on stickin' out of his pants," he says. "Hope I don't go breakin' it off!" By the time Silverstone gets around to the most implausible plot twist of all--she accuses Elwes of raping her and people actually believe her -- you'll be breaking in half with hilarity.

With two stars incapable of having a crush on anyone but their mirrors, we're afraid that writer-director Alan Shapiro's crush on Alfred Hitchcock is the only crush on display: Silverstone freaks out in full riding gear, like Tippi Hedren in Marnie; when Rubin fights off those wasps, it's shot like the finale of The Birds; then, falling, she grabs a curtain, like Janet Leigh in the Psycho shower. In the absurd climax, Elwes fights for his life on a twirling carousel straight out of Strangers on a Train, only this one's in an attic (don't ask).
Our favorite moment, though, is an original. Elwes, disturbed from his sleep by chopping noises and angry screams, investigates to find a sweaty, crazily wide-eyed Silverstone hacking away at lemons. He asks what she's doing and she hisses, "Making lemonade. Want some?"

Take it from your Auntie Helen, when you're ready for a long cool drink of laughter, catch The Crush.

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