Love, Loss and Time Travel

Posted by Corey O’Connell on 10.8.2012


Camille Rewinds director and star Noémie Lvovsky.

Camille Rewinds (Camille Redouble) is a charming French take on Francis Ford Coppola’s 1986 American film Peggy Sue Got Married (NYFF '86). Camille, directed and co-written by the film’s star Noémie Lvovsky in 2012, is not a transcultural adaptation so much as it is a 20-something year update of Coppola’s time-travel story. Peggy Sue goes back in time from 1985 to 1960, while Camille goes back in time from present day to the mid-1980s. There is more than a change in time period, though: Camille takes the basic conflicts introduced in Peggy Sue and deepens them, making Camille the stronger and more rewarding film for both familiar and unfamiliar audiences.

Lvovsky introduces her alterations to the story almost immediately in Camille. Whereas Peggy Sue goes back in time when she passes out at her 25th high school reunion shortly after her husband Charlie leaves her for another woman, Camille is an alcoholic who time travels after passing out inebriated at a New Year’s Eve party with her high school friends. Camille borrows a minor drunken escapade from Peggy Sue and turns it into an affinity for alcohol that is one of Camille’s chief flaws and an additional source of conflict. She is 40, and her husband Eric, the father of her daughter, is leaving her. This, essentially, is where the broad textual similarities end.


Kathleen Turner and Nic Cage in Francis Ford Coppola's Peggy Sue Got Married

Once they have gone back in time, Peggy Sue and Camille take different approaches to their pasts. Peggy Sue seizes the opportunity to ditch Charlie and date her other high school crush, Michael, and she does so with relish. High school Camille, on the other hand, avoids Eric like the plague, convinced that she can nip their love in the bud and prevent all her future heartache. Camille takes the plot one step further by throwing Eric and Camille into a school play together, forcing them to act as lovers despite Camille’s resistance. The update also incorporates Camille’s pregnancy, which raises the stakes of her and Eric’s relationship. Some of the other more notable changes include the addition of a b-story involving the death of Camille’s mother, and the morphing of Peggy Sue’s brainy classmate Richard into a teacher named Alphonse with whom Camille experiences a fleeting infatuation. Both of these storylines are absent from Peggy Sue, but both function well in Camille, adding to the emotional impact of Camille’s journey back in time as well as to her personal conflict: to what extent should she alter the past, and is it possible for her to change her future?

Camille and Peggy Sue both have fun with the fact that they’ve traveled back in time to be their high school selves again, and it is equally enjoyable for the audience to witness these grown-up women confusedly reliving their youth. Peggy Sue rediscovers test-taking, Camille is sentenced to the agonies of gym class, and both women are subjected to the petty sneers of fellow students. Significantly, Peggy Sue finds its titular character in the middle of her relationship with Charlie when she first travels back in time, but Camille has not yet formally met Eric when she arrives in the 80s. Camille gives us the distinct pleasure and privilege of seeing the two meet and fall in love, and for Camille, despite her protestations and preventative measures, it is as fresh and delightful an experience as it was the first time around.


Noémie Lvovsky & Samir Guesmi in Camille Rewinds.

Any viewer familiar with Peggy Sue might find herself having the same experience—falling in love with the story all over again, only this time, under the direction of Lvovsky. She and co-writers Maud Ameline, Pierre-Olivier Mattei, and Florence Seyvos do an admirable job of expanding Peggy Sue’s story, keeping many of its main structural elements while updating it for contemporary audiences. Lvovsky, in the role of Camille, brings a beautiful combination of joy and sadness to the part, crafting a vulnerable character who is also refreshingly sincere. The original character of Peggy Sue and the original text of Coppola’s work serve as a firm foundation upon which Lvovsky and company built a thoughtful yet fun film that does not deserve the stigmatic designation of "remake." Lvovsky’s film pays ample tribute to its predecessor, while challenging knowing audiences to engage with the protagonist and her conflicts more deeply. As a successful adaptation, Camille is strong enough to exist to unknowing audiences as a freestanding work, and all viewers should consider it as such.

Camille Rewinds has its final NYFF screening October 10 at 3:30pm.

Corey O'Connell is a member of the NYFF Critics Academy program. You can follow her on Twitter at @koreyo19.

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