I was wrong about this movie. From the preview we saw the other day, I
assumed it was a sappy dying woman melodrama. In fact, it is not about a dying
woman, but a dead woman, and although it is sappy, it leavens that with black
comedy. If it had a little more black comedy and a little less mush, it could
have been a classic. Even as it is, I found it quite watchable.
Here are my expanded notes:
Camille consists of three very different types of movies stitched together
into one story.
1. The first third of the film is a backwoodsy comedy about a cheery, naive
girl so in love with her sullen fiancé and so excited by the idea of her
honeymoon and marriage, that she can't see, or won't accept, that her beloved
doesn't really love her back. Nothing can dampen her mood, however, not even
when the preacher asks him if he'll take this woman, and he can't decide.
And, mind you, it was really an easy choice: either marry the girl, who's
too talkative and a little ditzy, but gorgeous and sweet natured; or go back
to prison for life. The girl's uncle is a lawman, you see, and he pulled some
strings to get the groom and the bride together, but is willing to let those
strings go slack again if his niece isn't getting a husband out of the deal.
So we know immediately that the groom is really having a hard time choosing
between marriage to her and life in prison, so it seems that life's pathway
will be a rocky, uphill climb for them.
This section includes an awkward wedding and the beginning of a honeymoon
trip to Niagara Falls, all played to milk the laughs and pathos out of the
Until she dies in a traffic accident.
2. The middle portion of the film is a dark, dark romantic comedy. The
bride is dead, but just plain refuses to leave. Oh, she's cold, has no pulse,
is decomposing, is losing her hair, and smells foul, but she's just not going
to go until she gets her honeymoon in Niagara Falls. And she is still one
perky and talkative corpse, even though the whole death thing gets her down
from time to time. During this time, the ne'er-do-well groom starts to realize
that he just pissed away the love of a great woman, and that maybe he ought to
give her something back for all the love she has given him since 6th grade, so
he resolves to make her post-life experience as pleasant as possible, given
that she's a rotting corpse among live people.
3. The film's finale is sweet and sentimental. In fact it's over-the-top
syrupy. The supernatural and fantasy elements of the film are stepped up a
notch, and the film turns into a high-concept romance, complete with teary
eyes and stirring music.
Does it work? Almost. I'd say it's an OK chick-flick that falls just short
of being a good one because it fails to find the right balance dark humor and
sentiment. There's nothing wrong with sentiment. Casablanca is one of the best
films ever made, and it can be gooey, but it pays the price necessary to earn
its emotional moments by building up to them with cynical humor and important
themes. Camille has no important backdrop like WW2, but if the film had
exploited the dark premise better in the middle of the film, the schmaltzy
ending would seem like a tasty dessert. As it stands, the film gets gushy too
soon, in the center, and starts too early to pile on many consecutive corny
moments backed by maudlin music, so that the mawkish ending is not only
telegraphed, but seems too sweet, like the idea of eating a box of chocolates
after devouring a big meal which already included a rich dessert. The middle
third of the movie needed a lot more jokes and a lot less treacle.
But I find it hard to be too critical of a film with a good heart and a
good message, even if that message is just as simple and shallow as "love each
other more, and appreciate what you have." James Franco and Sienna Miller do a
solid job as the groom and bride, and there is some solid back-up from screen
veterans like Ed Lauter and Scott Glenn. David Carradine steals the show as an
eccentric cowboy. After never having thought much about Carradine one way or
another, I am now becoming a big fan since he turned toward offbeat and funny
character roles. He was drop-dead hilarious in Big Stan. He's not wildly funny
in Camille, but and he infuses the film with a soft/rugged presence which
manages to be both profoundly odd and warmly appealing. Who would have thought
he could transform himself into Richard Farnsworth!
Co-star James Franco has bad-mouthed the film publicly, and Camille proved
to be utterly unmarketable, so it will rides its strong cast straight to DVD.
Sienna Miller did a PG-rated nude
scene. Obviously the director wanted the mildest rating he could get,
because we can safely assume Sienna would have had no trouble getting naked.