CRSHD (pronounced ‘Crushed’) is a movie about female friendship, youth, lust, navigating desire and the construct of ‘virginity’ as a young person with a smartphone. The fact that Emily Cohn, the writer and director of the film, is of the same generation and age as her characters lends an ever-present authenticity and urgency to this college-aged female-led sex comedy.
The collegiate school year is coming to a close at a small liberal arts college in Ohio. Everyone is buzzing about the end of the year ‘Crush Party’. Our protagonists are Izzy Alden (played by Isabelle Barbier), Anuka Deshpande (played by Deeksha Ketkar) and Fiona Newman (played by Sadie Scott).
Here are the stakes: Izzy is a virgin, who is absolutely desperate to shake the label before summer break. We see her try to put on her womanly charms and make goofy, yet earnest attempts at seduction. Anuka is Izzy’s wiser and more experienced friend, who is navigating Tinder, an open relationship, and more crushes and dates than one can keep up with. Fiona is the group’s queer confident rebel with cotton candy-colored hair and a burning crush on a hot older girl. It was refreshing to see some range of sexuality included in the movie’s main plot line. Fiona’s crush situation conveys how 2 women court each other. This is juxtaposed with the heterosexual pursuits and conquests of Anuka and Izzy in a balanced and nuanced way.
Izzy juggles her mission to lose her virginity with the pressure of a looming finals exam in Astronomy class. The studious angel on her shoulder tells her to concentrate on the exam and the horny devil is preoccupied with the ‘Crush Party’ and who might be the person that anonymously submitted Izzy’s name as their crush. This is all so freshman year of college that it hurts because it vividly recalls a time when a campus party could be the pinnacle of your social bearings.
The more that the girls text and plan to meet their crushes, it seems things may come together for some and not so much for others. There is the obligatory ‘everyone has a crush on the wrong person’ story trope, which threatens to break up Izzy and Anuka’s friendship. The wedge between them makes for heartbreakingly awkward conversations that tugged my heartstrings way more than all the romantic stuff. The intimacy of friendship is shown to be the kind of love that endures and triumphs through all of the ups and downs.
I spoke to Emily Cohn on the phone the day of the second showing of Crshd at the 2019 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival. She proudly touts about how the cast and crew were all around the same age of the characters. This movie was shot at her alma mater, Oberlin College and the script for this film actually began as a homework assignment for one of her Creative Writing courses. “Everything [in this film] stems from my experiences and my friends’ experiences,” she says.
What is so real and captivating about this film is how it creates a visual world to match the inner world of one’s smartphone usage. The three main characters don’t just silently read their text messages to and from one another on screen. They are shown sitting side by side in the ‘confessional style’, that most Americans will recognize from reality TV, as they reenact their text messages like monologues sent into the digital flux. Emojis appear as they are used in conversation and the audience feels and sees the emotions that are being passed from device to device, brain to brain, and heart to heart.
When asked how this movie relates to her past works and what her ideas are for future works, Emily says, “Moving forward my goals remain the same [as can be seen in CRSHD & previous works of hers]. I want to show the technology we use to connect to each other every day in an emotional, authentic way. [Also,] I am interested in retelling the ‘All American coming of age’ story from the female point of view.”
For context about her work, I watched some of Emily’s past works on her Vimeo page before seeing CRSHD.
The work that had the most in common with CRSHD was her short film called SEXT. In this film, a young woman is looking to hook up and needs the support of her friends, so she is texting them for advice. Soon these friends appear and are in the room with her guiding her moves in the bedroom.
In SEXT and CRSHD, the intimate becomes communal because of how intrinsic smartphones are to our lives, which includes our relationships and emotions as well.
CRSHD does such a phenomenal job of driving this point home without being too cheesy or repetitive. This is why I foresee this film being considered alongside movies like Lady Bird, Girls Trip, Super Bad (which happens to be a favorite of Cohn’s) and Mean Girls. It is definitely worth seeing for yourself, whether you are seeking a youthful drama/coming of age film, a film to assuage/heighten nostalgia for your college days, or a film to remind you how dire it feels to have a crush or be crushed.
Review by Dee Diggs @dee.diggs