“Peggy Sue Got Married” gets a cute French accent in “Camille Rewinds,” an amiable comedy that ultimately goes on too long without taking its back-to-the-past premise in an emotionally satisfying direction. Noemie Lvovsky’s spirited lead turn as a soon-to-be-divorced mom who gets a supernatural second chance is the strongest element of her latest writing-directing effort, which has trouble sustaining interest in its protag’s romantic indecision. Pic’s professional gloss, mainstream accessibility and Directors’ Fortnight prize should give it an offshore boost following its Oct. 17 Gaul release, despite an abundance of locally targeted humor.
Forty-one-year-old actress Camille (Lvovsky) is introduced on the set of a grade-D horror movie with pints of fake blood pumping from her neck, an amusing gag that feels like a bit of a non sequitur in retrospect, given how little her career figures into this relationship-driven tale. Camille gets along splendidly with her teenage daughter (Judith Chemla) and rather less so with her husband, Eric (Samir Guesmi), who’s about to leave her for a younger woman.
After angrily throwing Eric out of their apartment, Camille winds up drowning her sorrows at a wild New Year’s Eve party, where she passes out. When she awakens, she finds the clock has rewound 25 years, and she’s 16 again. Though understandably disoriented, Camille adjusts rather quickly to this peculiar state of affairs, and is particularly overjoyed to find that her dear parents (Yolande Moreau, Michel Vuillermoz) are alive and well again. Meanwhile, old high-school sweetheart Eric is falling in love with her all over again, although she’s determined not to repeat that particular mistake.
One of the pic’s creaky but charming conceits is that everyone around Camille sees her as a teenager, even though Lvovsky inhabits the role throughout without the apparent benefits of skin-tightening prosthetics or reverse-aging CGI. The actress nonetheless conveys a sassy, snappy energy and youthful vigor that make the ploy persuasive, and it helps that she fits so effortlessly back into her character’s colorful ’80s wardrobe.
To her credit, as scribe-helmer, Lvovsky is less interested in milking the scenario for fish-out-of-water comedy than in treating her character’s emotional quandaries as vividly and realistically as possible, arguably to a fault. Too much of the nearly two-hour running time is given over to Camille and Eric’s repetitive push-pull dynamic, and the added complication of another suitor — in the form of a high-school teacher (Denis Podalydes) who believes Camille when she says she’s a visitor from the future — never really clicks as a viable romantic alternative.
For all its romantic preoccupations, the pic is never more delightful or poignant than when it explores its protag’s relationship with her parents, who are brought to life in straightforward and moving fashion by Vuillermoz and, especially, Moreau. One wrenching subplot, centered around Camille’s attempts to keep her mother from experiencing a fatal stroke, cuts to the quick of the film’s themes about the impossibility of forestalling the inevitable, even with the advantage of hindsight.
Jean-Marc Fabre’s lensing blends bright, almost candy-colored hues with handheld immediacy, lending the pic a polished look as well as a lively, spontaneous feel. Other tech credits are well turned, particularly a soundtrack brimming with American pop, including Katrina & the Waves’ 1983 hit “Walking on Sunshine.”