Hi, fellow queer here!
Lesbian rom-coms have been few and far between over the years, and as classics such as “But I’m a Cheerleader” and “Imagine Me and You” fade into the background, new life must spring up. Hulu took a swing at a contemporary movie that would appeal to young queer people; this time, they succeeded.
For the first time, “Crush” gave me the happy heart feelings that a romantic comedy is supposed to, and I am beyond grateful for that.
Rowan Blanchard stars as Paige, a young artist who finds herself unwillingly stuck on the high school track team. She has to work out her crush on popular girl Gabby (Isabella Ferreira), while her best friend Dillon (Tyler Alvarez) gets himself through a wacky election competition with his girlfriend Stacey (Teala Dunn).
Mysterious AJ is played by Auli’i Cravalho, who rose to fame after starring in “Moana,” was a highlight in this movie. She provides a refreshing potential love interest who is both visually stunning and well acted, and she really gives the feel of a rebellious, cool type of teenager. Her character is a bisexual who has apparently been wearing beanies since elementary school, and her story of feeling second-place to her sister works really well into the main plot. She gets stuck training track with Blanchard, the “Girl Meets World” Disney actress, who provides a lighthearted and fun main character. Her character Paige gives the nerdiness and awkwardness we crave in a comedic hero.
Chiefly, “Crush” is a cute and hilarious story that appeals to younger people. I know I would have loved this movie in high school and watched it religiously. Being appropriate for a teenage audience means a lot, considering many lesbian films are riddled with sex scenes and traumatic content. This movie sticks to the teenage plotlines that feel comfortable and heartwarming. No severe homophobia, no stereotypical death of one of the lovers, and the romance feels natural. However that comes with a price – a plot that’s a little simplistic. “Crush” certainly follows the romantic comedy trope of being predictable, as major parts of the plot can be easily guessed early on. But that does not stop you from watching on in anticipation. And there are some surprising twists to the story, although they could have been more significant.
The combination of cuteness, humor, and queerness is what makes “Crush” such a must-watch hit. The most important part – the queer themes – are generally handled well. The main character does have to come out, but the coming-out process does not take up too much of the story’s time. Movies with a central focus on coming-out are valuable, but it is always nice to give queer characters a different storyline. With “Crush” we don’t have to stress and squirm in our seats about the main character fighting for acceptance. Instead she has many other less serious problems which are a wonderful distraction from the sadder reality of many in the community.
There are also many specific references to queerness that hit well, such as the early joke about how dental dams often go unused. These are greatly appreciated and show that the humor finds itself within a queer audience. It’s definitely a movie that more feminine queer women will appreciate, as femmes make up the major queer representation. We also see a non-binary side character, Aya (Jes Tom). The outfits are accurate to queer high-schoolers and fashionable too. In fact, Paige wears a shirt displaying “GUSH” in neon, which I am guessing is a reference to Shane’s near identical shirt in the early 2000s TV series about lesbians, “The L Word.” These little moments are what make “Crush” so good – it’s a show written by queer people and contains the real queerness that previous queer movies lack, while keeping the story light and fun.
Frustratingly, the role of straight people within “Crush” muddies the film’s queer spotlight. I was a little confused as to what Dillon and Stacey added to the story, and I would have been very happy to have this secondary straight couple do more for the plot line rather than make out every few seconds.
In fact, that same joke became overused very quickly. Dillon seems somewhat unnecessary to the entire plot, as he and Stacey together serve mostly as a punchline about hypersexual teenagers. The two could have added a lot more to the plot — especially Dillon’s character, who is very lovable and a great comedic addition. Dillon plays mildly into the romance plot, but I personally think he could have pushed the main couple together more or furthered the KingPun plot in order to solidify his character’s place. Stacey played a part in the plot, but we saw and learned very little about her character and I would have loved to know more! They both felt very static. I felt as those the background Wiccan lesbian character had more of a character development by the end than these two.
The wins in “Crush” come less from the comedy and more from the queer romance. Ultimately, it scratches that itch to have some cute lesbian moments, and the scenes that do so are well executed. While some of the humor and plot could have been a bit more developed, it more than succeeds at its goal: to be a new, young, queer rom-com.
Emily Scheibe is a rising junior in the College. Queer Here will appear online every other week during the summer.