Released last Friday, Hulu’s latest romantic comedy Crush follows sapphic protagonist Paige Evans (Rowan Blanchard) as she navigates romantic and artistic challenges. We first meet Paige when she’s still passionately clinging to a fifth-grade crush on Gabriela “Gabby” Campos (Isabella Ferreira) and without a clue how to answer the prompt for her application to the California Institute of the Arts. Despite making being an artist her whole personality trait, Paige has no idea how to draw her happiest moment. To top off this artistic dilemma, Paige is soon assigned an impossible task: find the graffiti artist is only known as KingPun, who’s been vandalizing school property all year, or being suspended. Somehow, trying out for the track team also gets worked into that academic plea bargain, so the movie begins.
Gabby and her twin sister AJ (Auli’i Cravalho) are the co-captains of the track team, and at first, Paige sees an opportunity to get closer to Gabby and maybe even eventually do something about her massive crush. But as the movie progresses, we get to see delightful montages of Paige’s sports journey (who doesn’t love a good sports montage?) paired with her burgeoning friendship and crush on AJ. Incomparable LGBTQIA+ romantic comedies, notably Netflix’s Heartstopper and Hulu’s Love, Victor, the two romantic leads get closer over their shared connections and things in common. For AJ and Paige, it’s all about opposites attract – especially since Paige never saw AJ in a romantic light.
In this way, Crush follows the blueprint of heterosexual romantic comedies like The Ugly Truth or Two Weeks Notice and shreds the prototypical queer romantic loop. At first glance, AJ and Paige couldn’t be more opposite: sports jock to awkward artist. But as the movie progresses, circumstance pulls them together, first when Coach Murray (Aasif Mandvi) assigns AJ to improve Paige’s performance, then at Stacy’s (Teala Dunn) house party, and finally at the overnight track meet when they’re assigned to share a room. But for me, that pivotal game of Seven Minutes in the Hotel Bathroom solidified their romantic connection and the key conflict in the movie.
The writing here is fantastic, which can’t be emphasized enough. Produced by Natasha Lyonne and Maya Rudolph, the movie effortlessly balances humor amidst teenage angst and awkwardness. From Paige and her mother’s (Megan Mullally) first interaction, Lyonne and Rudolph’s characteristically tummy-tickling humor permeate the characters’ interactions. Building off the ‘cool mom’ meme that first appeared in Mean Girls, Crush’s ‘cool mom’ means being sex-positive: from buying a vibrator to encouraging her daughter to use glow-in-the-dark dental dams. While watching, I simultaneously loved and cringed at Paige’s mother, who perfectly walks the line between embarrassing and accepting.
Along with Crush’s good-natured humor, I have to give applause to the incredible and diverse cast that did nothing but deliver throughout the movie. To the best of my (short) memory, this is the first movie I’ve seen all year that featured an interracial relationship without a white person. Dillon (Tyler Alvarez) and Stacy (Teala Dunn) are the token straight couple that is utterly obsessed with each other while competing against each other for the title of Student Body President, which Stacy eventually wins at the end of the movie. One of my favorite things about the film is the lens through which we view their heterosexual relationship. Their constant PDA and one under-the-covers sex scene are viewed as a comedic fluke in an otherwise LGBTQIA+ dominated school. Instead of assuming the typical stance of heteronormativity, the movie instead embraced the complex lesbian dating scene and made it hysterical. My only sour notes for the film were that Auli’i Cravalho and Isabella Ferreira were cast as siblings. The two actresses are not of the same ethnicity; there were rumors of biphobia among the cast, allegedly by one of the leads.
When Dillon and Stacy try to get Paige past her crush on Gabby at the beginning of the movie, we get an introduction to all of them out gay women that attend their high school. And let me tell you, the ‘types’ of gay women were shockingly accurate; representation is essential, but they didn’t need to catch the horse girls in 4k like that. Beyond just making well-timed jokes about the different types of gays, Crush takes the stereotypical ‘Wiccan gay’ character, Chantal (Addie Weyrich), and makes her a plot device: pushing AJ and Paige together at the party, giving the pair someone to investigate during their search for KingPun, and at the end, it’s revealed that the ‘love spell’ cast at the beginning of the movie was actually to bring AJ and Paige together.
Overall, I’d highly recommend this movie. Required watching, as it were. This movie not only appeals to people in the LGBTQIA+ community but to anyone who is a fan of a good romantic comedy (as everyone should be), people who cry listening to “Same Love” by Macklemore, and people who can’t stop watching Heartstopper (you know who you are).
Available on Hulu.