CRSHD charts familiar territory in its losing virginity pact plot—Izzy’s (Isabelle Barbier) secret plan to “bone” a guy for the first time before she has to leave her small Ohio college for a mind-numbingly boring summer with her grandparents—but writer/director Emily Cohn ingeniously subverts this generic trope with her playful, energetic vision and unabashed display of female desire. From the very start of the film, we understand just how unapologetically thirsty Izzy is as she imagines making out with various boys she runs into on campus in sped-up fantasy sequences with thumping electronic music, the beats matching her aroused heart.
Her best friends, Fiona (Sadie Scott), a girl with a crush on a popular Instagram artist, and Anuka (Deeksha Ketkar), who has a boyfriend but is interested in other guys, both encourage Izzy to attend an exclusive off-campus “crush party” (a.k.a. her last chance to have sex with someone before the summer) instead of studying for her astronomy class’ final exam. For this elusive gathering, you must secretly submit your crush to invite them, but you can only receive an invitation if somebody crushes you. After casting their votes, the girls embark on an odyssey around their suburban college town, trying to beat the system and get invited and searching for alcohol to prepare for the big night.
The young cast has a naturalistic exuberance that makes their nuanced characters feel incredibly authentic. Unlike other teen films, these girls are free to be intelligent, caring, awkward, sensual, and flawed. They have sexual desires and value their friendships. Their performances are effortless and their interactions spark. Scott brings a quick-witted cheekiness to her role without being obnoxious, while Ketkar contrasts with her steady warmth. Barbier shines in her lead role with a lovable, gangly awkwardness, affecting vulnerability, and fearless buffoonery.
CRSHD opens with an amusing cartoon credit sequence that evokes 1980s arcade games, depicting Izzy as an avatar with various matchmaking possibilities around campus: sexy artist, stoner, political activist, musician. Or there’s a cute, shy guy from her astronomy class. The technology we consume on a daily basis is also part of this animated sensibility. CRSHD feels like a pinball machine, the screen constantly flashing with brightly-coloured lights, whizzing graphics, and quick, punchy editing. This hyper-kineticsm captures the girls’ vivacity and their habitual use of social media.
Cohn brilliantly depicts how social media is the linchpin of young people’s lives and a catalyst for so much that goes on in modern life. She represents texts, Facebook, Instagram, and Tinder posts in cute, colourful vignettes. When sending their messages, characters directly address the camera while sitting in front of cotton candy-coloured backgrounds. They explain what kind of social media presence they have, read the complete descriptions of their emojis, justify their Facebook profile pictures, and more. These hilarious sequences demonstrate Cohn’s adept understanding of social media’s significance. She crafts some of the most beguiling and creative uses of social media seen in film today.
This delightful film has a flowing randomness that feels exactly like the college experience. It’s an incredibly refreshing teen comedy that portrays the female sexual experience in an easygoing and meaningful way with well-written characters (and a good amount of POC and LGBTQ+ representation). CRSHD ends with a poignant message about not letting your lack of self-esteem get in the way of your personal growth or limit yourself from experiences; often, we see the worst in ourselves when others do not. With an adorable and joyous bubblegum aesthetic that really pops, Emily Cohn portrays young adult life in the digital age with honesty and sharp, observant humour.
CRSHD has just had its virtual premiere through Laemme Virtual Cinema. You can rent it here.
by Caroline Madden
Caroline is the author of Springsteen as Soundtrack. Her favourite films include Dog Day Afternoon, Baby It’s You, Inside Llewyn Davis, and The Lord of the Rings. She is the Editor in Chief of Video Librarian and does social media for Passion River Films. She has an MA degree in Cinema Studies from SCAD. You can follow her on Twitter @crolinss.