Containing enough wild revelations and tearful confrontations to fill several seasons of an average telenovela, “Faded Memories” is the directing debut of the allegedly 16-year-old Anne-Sophie Dutoit, working from a script she wrote two years earlier. It’s easy to admire Dutoit’s ambition and precocity, but it’s hard to imagine why the producers saw fit to give her control of a well-staffed feature-length production so early in her career. Curiosity could drive initial box office (limited release began Nov. 14), and Dutoit could be a force to be reckoned with post-film school, but pic is ultimately little more than a baffling curiosity.
Any teenager with a YouTube account would kill for the opportunity to write, direct, and star in their own fully funded film, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. The basic tools of moviemaking have never been more accessible to enterprising young filmmakers, and had Dutoit shot the same script by herself in scrappy DIY fashion, it might well have been more impressive. But covered as it is here with such high gloss and conspicuously elaborate production values (those swooping crane shots and aerial views of Malibu couldn’t have been cheap), the effect is nearly surreal and often unintentionally hilarious. (Watching adult actors grapple with dialogue written by a 14-year-old provides some jaw-dropping moments.)
The film centers on 17-year-old Cassandra (played by Dutoit, who also exec produced), a much put-upon orphan positioned as a cross between Cinderella and Lydia from “Beetlejuice,” living the drifter’s life with evil aunt Maggie May (Ely Pouget), whose hatred for Cassandra is as unexplained as her constant habit of opening beer bottles with her teeth.
The two end up in Malibu, and Cassandra meets a dreamy, sensitive surfer (Brock Kelly) who, ignoring the inexplicable protests of his friends, family and seemingly the entire town, quickly enters into a romance with the heroine, helping her overcome her fear of being touched. All the while, flash-forwards show a catatonic Cassandra confined to a mental hospital.
What happens in between is rather unrestrained teenage wish fulfillment without the filter of an adult perspective, which ends up being the pic’s most unique quality: It’s not Cassandra’s imagination; the entire adult world actually is conspiring to ruin her life. With so many movies made by adults to tap into the imagined fantasies of teenagers, it’s interesting to see one that comes straight from the source.
Tech credits are solid. Dutoit manages a number of artful sequences, and handles the film’s non-chronological structure reasonably well.