Three Women and an Organ

"When I say that I know women," Thackeray wrote, "I mean that I know that I don't know them." Would that first-time Brit filmmaker John McKay were blessed with such frank self-knowledge; endeavoring to make a menopausal chick flick for the post-Full Montycrowd, he mucks around in exotic territory like a patronizing tourist. In a preposterously idealized real-estate-porn English village, three aging, manless girlfriends meet weekly for self-pity, cigarettes, and wine: aw-shucks headmistress Kate (Andie MacDowell), vampy doctor Molly (Anna Chancellor), and frumpy police inspector Janine (Imelda Staunton). As the butts and merlot are brandished like sacred totems, the chitchat is all about men—as in, how to find one. (Clearly, MacDowell would need only to move out of the boondocks.) When Kate impulsively ruts with a young organist (Kenny Doughty) in a church graveyard during a funeral ("Nice organ!" she says—ba-dum-bum), her appalled friends proceed to scheme like sidekicks in a booty comedy.

Much of Crushconcerns the irrelevant conflict between Kate's hot boy-toy and her friends' bizarre disgruntlement, but somewhere after the first hour it begins to spill toxic nonsense like a jackknifed tanker. Manipulative tragedy, muddled motivations, incongruous reconciliations, deranged cuteness, all of it directed with a tin ear and laden with a score that evokes the experience of a conditioned lab rat. Forget about the little respect McKay exhibits for his projected public; his heroines are supposed to be flawed, adorable Everybroads, but they are instead skittish, hypocritical, destructive simpletons. Crushcould be the worst film a man has made about women since Valley of the Dolls.


Ab drab: MacDowell and Doughty in Crush
Ab drab: MacDowell and Doughty in Crush

Details

Crush
Written and directed by John McKay
Sony Pictures Classics

Clockstoppers
Directed by Jonathan Frakes
Written by Rob Hedden and J. David Stein & David N. Weiss
Paramount

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Conversely, Jonathan Frakes's Clockstoppersknows its audience like a dog knows fleas. As movies directed by ex-Star Trek actors go, it isn't nearly as jejune as, say, Leonard Nimoy's Three Men and a Baby, but neither does it possess the ambivalent entelechy of LeVar Burton's The Tiger Woods Story. Still, if I were 13, I might be sufficiently entranced by the movie's bicycle stunts (down stairs! across countertops!) and wouldn't be wondering why ideas for science fiction films haven't progressed very far from Star Trek's first seasons all those decades ago. Clockstoppers' central idea, like Vanilla Sky's, is recycled Roddenberry: "molecular acceleration" technology that speeds up the protagonist's body clock and therefore seems to stop everyone else's time dead. Naturally this "black ops" project (run by evil CEO Michael Biehn) falls into the hands of a precocious teen (Jesse Bradford), and the chase is on.

As the movie's ad campaign acknowledges, the scenario is a minefield for hedonistic wish-fulfillment (as was the more adult Hollow Man's), but the most the PG rating can stomach is practical jokes and petty-injustice redress (moving a pissing dog into a dishonest traffic cop's car, puppeteering an evil kid during a DJ contest). The inescapable matter of invasive sexual power is innocently ignored, despite the target demographic's hormonal load. Which is perhaps understandable for what would've been, in the '70s, a Disney movie starring Kurt Russell.

 
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