Queer Rom-com 'Crush' Charms with Adorable Sweetness

by Megan Kearns

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday April 29, 2022

'Crush'  (Source:Hulu)

Rom-coms often provide me solace with their comforting familiarity in their tropes and narratives. Wonderful queer rom-coms include "Love, Simon," "Happiest Season," "The Watermelon Woman," "But I'm a Cheerleader," and "The Half of It."

Adding to the much-needed pantheon of queer films, "Crush" is an adorably sweet, charming, and joyous rom-com filled with endearing characters.

Directed by Sammi Cohen in their full-length feature directorial debut, and written by Kirsten King and Casey Rackham, the queer rom-com follows gay high school artist Paige (Rowan Blanchard, who's queer) as she reluctantly joins the track team to be closer to her crush.

Paige aspires to get accepted into her "dream school," Cal Arts. For her college application, she struggles with the assignment of creating a piece of art that expresses her happiest moment.

When Paige sees her long-time crush, cheerful and charismatic Gabriela "Gabby" (Isabella Ferreira), she envisions her walking in slow motion, surrounded by rainbow-colored puffs of clouds. Gabby is queer, and her twin sister, AJ (Auli'i Cravalho, who's bi), an effortlessly cool and mysterious skateboarder, is bi.

Paige's sex-positive single mother Angie (Megan Mulally) was incredibly supportive when she came out, high-fiving her, as we see in a flashback. She buys Paige vibrators and glow-in-the-dark dental dams — I was excited, as I never see dental dams on screen! Paige's best friend Dillon (Tyler Alvarez, who's openly gay) dates Stacey (Teala Dunn), his rival for class president. In another flashback, we see younger Paige coming out to Dillon. It's incredibly refreshing to have her coming out — and to see her multiple coming out moments — supported and normalized.

"Crush" is LGBTQ+-inclusive. Rowan Blanchard is queer, Auli'i Cravalho is bisexual, and Tyler Alvarez is gay. Queer nonbinary comedian Jes Tom portrays Aya, Gabby's nonbinary on-again off-again ex. The film is also racially diverse. The film's soundtrack is filled with LGBTQ+ musicians, including Tegan and Sara, King Princess, Mal Blum, St. Panther, and more. The artwork in the film is created by queer artist Kayla Fritz, bi trans woman artist Chloe Brailsford, and artists Quinn Scott and Anna Quackenbush.

When Principal Collins (Michelle Buteau) is about to suspend Paige for being "KingPun," a graffiti artist painting murals on school walls, Paige makes a deal to join track (so she can also be closer to Gabby) and find out KingPun's identity. Yet, Paige eventually finds herself falling for someone else.

Paige initially struggles at track, but AJ, one of the track co-captains, trains her. AJ compliments Paige's art, yet gives constructive criticism that it lacks emotion, suggesting she be more vulnerable. AJ reveals her fear of disappointing her father and his high expectations.

Rowan Blanchard and Auli'i Cravalho share a great chemistry and rapport. In my favorite scene, Paige and AJ open up to each other on a trip for a track meet. Vulnerable with each other, they discuss art, family, and coming out. It transcends infatuation and fantasy, transforming into something real: A deep, intimate connection.

Other subplots include AJ and Gabby sharing a heartfelt moment about AJ feeling "overshadowed" by her sister, Dylan and Stacey competing for class president (aroused by their competition), and the flirtation between Paige's mom and track coach, Coach Murray (Aasif Mandvi). I love that the film makes space for all the characters. Each character possesses their own agency, gets their own narrative arc, and has a moment to shine.

Far too often in film, queer characters go through torturous turmoil and tragedy. It's refreshing to see a queer film exuding exuberant happiness. Director Sammi Cohen thanked the screenwriters for crafting "the queer high school rom com I desperately needed as a kid."

We need more queer films in general, especially queer rom-coms and coming-of-age films. "Crush" evokes a comforting hug, blanketing you with its warmth and joy. Lovingly crafted, it conveys the importance of vulnerability and being true to yourself. I wish I could live inside the film's radiant world, where everyone enthusiastically champions and celebrates art and queer love.

"Crush" streams on Hulu on Friday, April 29, 2022.