American Kate (Andie MacDowell, "Harrison's Flowers") is the headmistress of a proper English boarding school. Her best friend Molly (Anna Chancellor, "Four Weddings and a Funeral's" Duckface) is the town's general practitioner. Janine (Imelda Staunton, "Rat") is the local Chief Constable. These three gather weekly to smoke, drink gin and discover who's been the most pathetic in the romance department, but when forty-something Kate finds lust with a twenty-five year old former pupil the trio is torn apart in writer/director John McKay's "Crush."

Laura's Review: C

John McKay has clearly been influenced by "Four Weddings and a Funeral" having cast two of Hugh Grant's inamoratas as best friends in a story that features two aborted weddings, a real one and a coupla funerals. While his central love story is affecting and his lead glowing, McKay deflates his piece of puffery with a sour cliche and heavy doses of mean-spiritedness.

Kate's established as a rebel as the credits roll. She sternly upbraids a female student for smoking and indulges herself in the contraband nicotine as soon as her office door closes. Meanwhile, Janine is dressing down a young officer, her son as it turns out, for misusing his authority to disrupt a wedding. Molly is tending a fake injury of a wealthy man who's too shy to ask her out.

When Kate attends the funeral of a colleague, she's drawn to the new organist Jed (Kenny Doughty, "Titus"). Before the congregation has scattered, Kate and Jed are having a tombstone tumble. Bursting with glee, Kate shares her naughty story with her two girlfriends and is taken aback by the prudish reactions she receives. Molly redoubles her efforts to push Kate towards Jed's employer, Rev. Gerald Marsden (Bill Paterson, MacDowell's costar in 1991's "The Object of Beauty"). Kate lies to her friends and continues to see Jed, who truly appreciates the older woman. Molly's jealous pique is carried into the realms of tragedy.

Were it not for MacDowell's honest performance, the genuine heat between her and Doughty, and an imaginative use of musical themes, "Crush" would be pure Lifetime television fare. While jealousy among female friends is a true enough phenomenon, McKay's Molly is so nasty, it's not believable she'd have a best friend, let alone regain one at film's end. Janine has attained the most unusual career for a woman, yet the character's completely spineless, going along with the pushy Molly against all her own instincts. This is a police supervisor who spends her weekends getting drunk, necking with strangers and putting herself into dangerous situations. McKay plays the whore/Madonna complex upon his lead and allows the perfectly nice minister to be treated atrociously. The film also looks too perfect, with visuals from cinematographer Henry Braham ("The Invisible Circus") that seem inspired by the mall art of Thomas Kinkade.

"Crush" may boast a sexy older woman/younger man romance, but it's a crushing disappointment.