Producers: Jennifer George, Abby Pucker, Barrett Rouen and Emily Cohn Director: Emily Cohn Screenplay: Emily Cohn Cast: Isabelle Barbier, Deeksha Ketvar, Sadie Scott, Will Janowitz, L.H. Gonzalez, Abdul Seidu, Dylan Rogers, Daniel Cramer, Jerry Lee Tucker, Isabelle Kenet and Ralph Fineberg Distributor: Lightyear Entertainment
Like old wine in new bottles, Emily Cohn’s college comedy offers a hackneyed premise in packaging as glitzy as its modest budget will allow. What’s distinctive about “CRSHD,” though, isn’t merely its extensive dependence on social-media tropes in the telling, but its female-centric perspective. Whether that’s enough to make it worth watching is another question. Viewers who can identify with its characters may find it engaging, but others will probably be more irritated than amused.
In a cast dominated by young performers with limited experience and equally uncertain ability, but who seem age-right for their roles, Isabelle Barbier plays Izzy Alden, a somewhat homely but likable girl coming to the close of her freshman year at an Ohio liberal arts college. She’s made a past with her best buds, vivacious blonde Fiona (Sadie Scott, going the wild, wacky route) and the more subdued Anuka (Deeksha Ketkar, underplaying quietly) to lose their virginity before the semester ends, but as yet hasn’t succeeded, though she imagines herself in clinches with every potential partner she bumps into.
The answer, it’s hoped, is a special “crush” party being given by one of the popular girls on campus. That’s a bash to which you submit the name of your crush, who gets a personal invitation. You, in turn, must have your name submitted to get an invite yourself. Of course, it will take some finagling to win entrance to the party—which will take the trio into some unfamiliar territory.
Then there’s the issue of whose name to submit as your crush. Izzy is torn, going through candidate after candidate by—of course—consulting social-media platforms for possibilities. That might have led to a series of boring computer-screen montages, but Cohn enlivens things visually with a variety of tricks. She uses bright pastel colors and animation, as well as direct remarks to the camera, to invigorate the trio’s conversations with one another. And when it comes to Izzy’s consultation of guys’ postings on dating sites, she presents the fellows directly addressing the audience in split-screen format. She’s striving for a riot of color and goofiness that will make the potentially dreary material not just palatable but fun.
At the same time, however, her script frequently strays into banal cliché. One episode, for example, involves the difficulty underage customers have in securing alcohol with fake IDs, and though it takes a turn into an impromptu drinking party with a couple of guys in the middle of a cornfield (complete with interventions by a cop), the familiarity of the idea indicates a loss of imagination that’s, unfortunately, not an isolated occurrence.
The film closes, of course, with the big party, where hook-ups proliferate, but while it’s refreshing to have this kind of story told from a female perspective, that’s not quite as unusual as it used to be in the days of “Porky’s” and “American Pie.” An increasing number of pictures, particularly independent ones from women directors, have taken that approach, so “CRSHD” is hardly unique in that respect. Moreover, its treatment of the male characters is about as stereotypical as that of the girls in the older, male-centric versions of such studies ordinarily were.
Nonetheless “CRSHD” is good-natured, and, for an obviously low-budget effort, it demonstrates considerable visual pizzazz in the work of cinematographer Saaniya Zaveri and production designer Josh Blankfield; the visual effects of Dorian Levine add to the mix. The editing by Cohn and Michelle Botticelli is another perky ingredient, as is the music by Matthew Liam Nicholson.
So while Cohn may not have crushed it, as it were, she’s at least treated a pedestrian premise with more imagination than one might expect. It’s just not enough.