The very first scene of “Camille Rewinds” features forty-something Camille (writer-director Noemie Lvovsky) lying in bed for a film crew, as she remains still while her throat is cut via movie magic, fake blood spurting from a pump hammered by a crew member. It’s just one of many deaths for the actress, a winking foreshadowing of the playfulness of the following film, and the malleability of what will become her identity. It’s also a commentary on forty-something actresses, and how the well usually dries up for performers who don’t want to be stuck playing mothers. If you would guess these are based in truth, you would be correct, and if you guessed these were fairly obvious points, then you’ve realized “Camille Rewinds” is as broad as the day is long.
Camille returns home from work, casually sipping bourbon from a flask on the bus ride there. Her newly-divorced ex-husband proceeds to kick her out of his apartment, complaining about her lack of receptiveness and constant drinking, qualities which Camille won’t refute. It’s in the arrival of a prospective buyer for the apartment that Camille goes off the handle, parading her drunkeness and selling only the negative attributes of the place to ward off the gentleman. It’s something we’ll soon learn is entirely in-step with who she is as a person. Lvovsky doesn’t make apologies for her self-interested drunk; she gives a perfectly calibrated comedic performance as a character who is used to being the center of attention.
Camille heads out that night, New Years Eve, to get back together with old friends and drink even more. But a chance detour at one of those supernatural movie shops where a kindly old man dispenses wisdom twenty four hours a day allows her to repair the battery on her phone, and just maybe fix her past. Once the clock strikes midnight, Camille wakes in a hospital bed, visited by her late parents. Suddenly, it’s the eighties again, and everyone sees Camille as if she’s sixteen again.
Unlike a recently-deposited action hero, Camille refuses to engage with the fact that she’s just participated in time travel. Instead she returns to her home, re-familiarizes herself with her old fashions, and sleeps in her old bed. When the next day passes and Camille is still present, she gladly goes to school, where she meets up with her old friends and, shockingly, her former beau. It’s he who convinces her she must try to change the future, to prevent heartbreak for either of them. But until then, boozing and gossiping with her school-age friends is paradise to her.
There is no moralizing in “Camille Rewinds” about how life was better and more simple as a teenager, and there are no “Looper”-style explanations for how the past affects the future. Instead, Camille, convinced she’s not dreaming, opts to use the opportunity as something of a mental holiday. There is the ticking clock of her mother’s passing, but when a CAT scan reveals nothing to worry about, Camille returns to the behavior of a teenage girl, even if she’s years beyond. Lvovsky thankfully eliminates any attempt to show the audience that Lvovsky is inside the body of a sixteen year old, instead having her play her younger self completely, reflection and all. This results in amusing pratfalls, like when the much-older Camille takes a handsome young teenager to bed, only to put the virgin off with her obviously-enlightened cougar sexual aggression.
“Camille Rewinds” attempts no clear re-writing of genre, following a similar path of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Peggy Sue Got Married.” We know there will be heartbreak, revelations, and character-building realizations, and they all occur very much in that order. What the concise “Camille Rewinds” celebrates is the vitality of youth through the wonderfully bubbly performance by Lvovsky. Cheeky and effervescent, we gather from the comfort in her own skin that Camille at sixteen isn’t much different than Camille of today, and fortunately this is neither a failing nor a positive attribute. As she bumbles her way through the eleventh grade once again, we see a woman who sees no difference in the agony and ecstasy of high school and the every day struggles of life and love in the adult world. Finally, someone is sent back in time for pleasure, not for egg-headed therapy. [B]