Veterans of first-time director movies, particularly self-consciously unclassifiable items shipped unceremoniously straight to the DVD shelves, will recognize Camille: It’s a movie of screenwriter cue cards, with “characters” and “arcs” and “lines” and bogus movie philosophy hammered home with plenty of unrelentingly “composed,” too-close, filmmaker-friendly compositions. The picture is just casually bad for the first act: Camille (Miller) has always loved the disreputable Silas (Franco), who, it’s implied, is more or less forced to marry her to get his jail sentence suspended. Miller is the Southern cracker, accent shoved down your throat, Franco the aloof petty criminal, rebelling against the idea of having to rebel against anything; he’d rather eat saltines in a gas station.
Nick Pustay’s script sounds all of the notes of the road comedy in which a bickering couple slowly finds romance as they weather one kooky, symbol-rich encounter after another. But something, the inciting incident as I’m sure the card said, happens that turns Camille and the film, paving the way for a foul, unintentional (one hopes) nastiness. Poor Camille gives and gives to Silas, pleading for a love he was blackmailed to provide, and he retreats further and further, his resentment impossible for him to suppress. Impossible, that is, until—spoilers herein—Camille dies, from an accident triggered, to an extent, by his disgust, revealing to Silas what he’s been ignoring all along: reliable, convenient true love. Silas, head now presumably clear, sets forth to get Camille to Niagara Falls, the destination of their honeymoon, so she can fade to the greener pastures in proper peace.
The battle of the sexes for exclusive, mutual ownership of one another has always, obviously, been a major ingredient of the romantic comedy, but in Camille the battle is one-sided and cruel. Miller is a gifted actress and she plunges into her naïve, cutie-pie of a part with a conviction that’s authentically brave considering the circumstances. Franco’s role is almost literally unplayable, and he has the disadvantage of one of those most infuriating of parts: the character the filmmakers clearly pull for that the audiences detest (Silas doesn’t earn what he half-heartedly recognizes at the end of the picture). Camille is ultimately a (disgusting) fantasy of the yielding beautiful woman who defines herself solely through the anything-but-ambitious loser she somehow loves, with that love finally reciprocated through death. Domestic abuse has never been so soul-affirming.
The sound is clear and the image is appropriately pop-bright and clean, which particularly comes through in the surprisingly beautiful Niagara Falls footage at the start and close, as well as in a few contextually absurd moments with Crayola-tinged galloping horses. Otherwise, Camille, regardless of home presentation, isn't the sort of picture that makes a lasting visual, or any other, impression.
Only a trailer.
An admirable Sienna Miller effort isn't enough to save this strange, plasti-quirky mess.