We’ve all been there before: in our burgeoning teenage years, thrust into a social sphere with alcohol, late nights and the concept of intimate relations. It’s a place where some thrive and others falter, forcing themselves to project a persona that feeds off sociability and teenage reckless abandon. This is what Emily Cohn’s CRSHD aims to explore – which she achieves by subverting much of the formula this type of film is based on.
CRSHD follows Izzy (Isabelle Barbier, in only her second feature film appearance) as she and friends Fiona (an electric Sadie Scott) and Anuka (Deeksha Ketkar) vie for an invitation to the ‘crushed’ party – where invites are only sent to those whom somebody else is lusting after. Navigating fake IDs and not being on the guest-list are only part of the troubles they encounter, as the night spirals into a realm of conflict, secrets and self-realisation.
For her feature debut, writer-director Emily Cohn is profoundly bold, colourful and lively. The film is permeated by video-game-inflected asides, adorned by arcade music and sprites designed like the three leads. It gives the film a Scott Pilgrim feel, but the lack of consistency – they drop off dramatically in the final act – is an odd creative choice. Similarly, the all-too-frequent cutaways – with characters set against a shoddy green-screen mimicking social media interaction – feel not only forced, but disturb the narrative’s flow.
The film hits hardest when subverting the expectations set by spiritual predecessors such as Superbad and last year’s terrific Booksmart. Its depictions of disappointment in friends, failing love lives and anticlimactic social experiences feel authentic and delicate. Cohn happily shuns comedy and cheap gags for an investigation into honesty and how lying to oneself and others can only have explosive consequences. It tows the line between wild comedy and emotional vulnerability with some success, and unlike its aforementioned influences, Cohn conveys the emotional toll of conflict with more sensitivity.
CRSHD becomes something other than a coming-of-age teen comedy – and becomes a lot like those parties from when we were blossoming teenagers: not quite what we expected, a little too erratic, but ultimately enjoyable. Its approach to the genre is unique and the characters anchor it – making this a neon-inflected ride that just about finds its feet.