Out of the Celluloid Closet

Cary Elwes’s butt is the star of this controversial ’90s thriller

Let’s be honest: the 90s were not a fantastic time to be a young woman. Podcaster Karina Longworth recently dedicated two entire seasons of “You Must Remember This” to covering the decade’s exploitative and skeevy attitude toward girls and women in Hollywood both onscreen and off. While the new breed of sex-forward thrillers and softcore crowdpleasers did create an atmosphere of titillation to match the culture’s growing interest in porno chic, the success of these films often came at the cost of (surprise!) the actresses who had to star in them.

Take, for instance, the terrifying example of the 1994 thriller The Crush. Starring a teenaged Alicia Silverstone in her feature film debut, this unhinged drama somehow manages to recast a 28-year-old man as the victim of a 14-year-old girl in a strange and sickening Lolita reversal. The absurdity doesn’t stop there: this is a movie where someone keeps an entire vintage carousel in their attic.

Silverstone, who’d made her screen debut in a 1992 episode of “The Wonder Years,” plays Adrian, a character sprung from the darkest recesses of the straight male imagination. When Adrian’s parents decide to take in a lodger in their spare apartment—a deliciously sexy Cary Elwes, only a few years out from his star turn in The Princess Bride—Adrian wastes no time in letting him know that she’s interested in him. The fact that he’s twice her age doesn’t matter: the role, as written, is one of a predator, a devious sh*t-stirrer on the level of Fatal Attraction‘s Alex Forrest. Adrian tries to get her crush to return her affections, and he almost does, but when he tells her that their ongoing flirtation has to stop, things turn deadly. Adrian’s character is written with the venomous, almost cartoonish misogyny that defined earlier thrillers like Single White Female and Poison Ivy. Far from being seen as the preteen she is, the script—as well as the rather pervy camera—treat her as an all-knowing, almost superhuman Lolita figure who can bamboozle her parents, the cops, and almost everyone she comes into contact with in pursuit of her crush.

All told, it’s a pretty gross thing to watch—but it’s not all a loss. There’s one redeeming quality extant in The Crush, and it shows up fairly early. That’s right, I’m talking about Cary Elwes’s butt. Adrian has a habit of busting into her crush’s living space at inopportune moments, and at one point she catches him after a run. He’s headed into the shower, and with an expert perviness Adrian sticks around while he towels off, peeking through the crack of the open door to get a glimpse of those cheeks.

Once glimpsed, Adrian lights up with a look of absolute glee, which—relatable.

The female gaze it ain’t—but it’s a far easier moment to take than the one that comes a few scenes later, when Elwes gets caught “accidentally” peeping at Adrian while hidden in her closet.

All told, The Crush is a time capsule of a pretty gross time—one in which the idea of the Lolita temptress was still very much alive and well both onscreen and off. If this era did give us a few choice glimpses of naked man butt, those glimpses came at quite a cost. In short: watch The Crush at your own risk, and if you decide to fast forward to the Elwes butt reveal and call it quits after that, you’d be quite forgiven.

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Tags: 90s
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