Hulu’s ‘Crush’ Is a Refreshing Queer Teen Rom-Com

First love is a complicated thing for most people, regardless of sexual orientation, generation or background. Rowan Blanchard, an actor and feminist activist who has been open about her own queer identity, is the perfect choice to lead the LGBTQ teen romantic comedy “Crush.” Blanchard stars as Paige Evans, a gay high school student and budding artist who finds herself in a love triangle with two queer twin sisters, glamorous Grabrielle (Isabella Ferreira) and rougher A.J. Campos (Auliʻi Cravalho). At the same time, a suspension looms over Paige, as she is suspected of being King Pun, the anonymous person illegally decorating school property with punny graffiti art. 

Paige makes a deal with Principal Collins (Michelle Buteau) and the track coach, Murray (Aasif Mandvi), that she will not only join the track team, but she will also find out the real King Pun, in order to save her own behind and a possible spot at a prestigious summer art program. It’s a lot to put on the plate of someone they have no concrete evidence against, but all the adults here are cartoonish and plagued with over-the-top comedic dialogue. The kids, especially Paige, are much cooler and smarter, so the viewer is confident that she will solve the mystery before them. Joining track isn’t a total drag for her, as it will bring her close to Gabby, whom she has had a crush on for years, despite her being in an on-and-off relationship with a non-binary hipster, Aya (Jes Tom). A.J. is asked to train Paige, and despite some initial misgivings, they end up having fun at their morning sessions. But just when they start to grow close, Gabby, fresh from her recent break-up with Aya, starts to really notice A.J. for the first time.

“Crush” is a refreshing LGBTQ teen feature, as it does away with the trope of having its lead struggle to come to terms with her sexuality. Paige has known she is gay since she has been a little girl, and her mother Angie (Megan Mullally), a single parent by choice who is extremely sex positive, is very supportive of her. Director Sammi Cohen and writers Kirsten King and Casey Rackham set out to make a film that depicted “queer joy,” and they cerainly succeeded, and this is a universal story. Yes, coming out was pain-free for Paige, but she finds navigating emotional and physical intimacy to be tricky. At this point in her life, she does not have much dating experience under her belt and she hasn’t even kissed anyone when the story begins. While a lot of characters in teen comedies usually only fall into one of two categories, oversexed or desperate to lose their virginities, Paige represents a third type of character, and viewers of all backgrounds will relate to her as she has her first kisses and learns the difference between a crush and an infatuation. 

While the eventual ending of “Crush” is predictable, Paige’s journey is enjoyable to watch unfold. The film’s working title was “Love in Color,” and Cohen, King Rackham and the actors certainly bring to life a colorful cast of characters, both straight and LGBTQ. All different types of young queer women are reprensented, included a “horse girl gay” and a young lesbian who dabbles in witchcraft. Representing the straights are Paige’s best friend Dillon (Tyler Alvarez) and his girlfriend Stacey (Teala Dunn). Dillion and Stacey are both running for class president, and in real-life this would tear many couples apart, but going with the forward-thinking mindset of the film, the competition only serves to fuel their passion for each other.

Crush” begins streaming April 29 on Hulu.