MOVIE REVIEW : ‘Camilla’ Pairs Tandy, Cronyn One Last Time


“Camilla” affords the late Jessica Tandy with a delightful final starring role and also a final teaming with her husband, Hume Cronyn. Although the film has considerable charm, the Cronyns and Tandy’s co-star Bridget Fonda are much better than it is.

Beautiful and elegant in the title role, Tandy and Fonda’s Freda meet while the younger woman and her husband Vince (Elias Koteas), who live in Toronto, are vacationing on Peabo Island along Georgia’s coast. Camilla, a former Toronto resident, is a violinist given to harmless exaggerations about professional triumphs and romantic conquests while Freda is a struggling composer whose husband dismisses her efforts as merely a hobby. A woman of spirit and imagination, Camilla is exactly the kind of person Freda needs to encourage her; Camilla in turn warms to Freda’s friendship.

So far so good, especially since Vince, a commercial artist, quickly lands an advertising/promotion assignment with Camilla’s son Harold (Maury Chaykin), an Atlanta-based soft-porn film producer. Meanwhile, the women are beginning to think how much fun it would be to take off for Toronto, where, according to Camilla, she experienced her greatest triumph at the landmark Elgin/Winter Garden Theaters.


Writer Paul Quarrington unfortunately makes a major mistake at this point. Instead of simply informing Vince and Harold of their plans, the women just take off. This not only has the effect of making them seem callous and irresponsible but also means that every time Tandy and Fonda are working up a lovely scene, director Deepa Mehta has to cut away to show Vince and Harold becoming increasingly and understandably distraught over the women’s disappearances.

Structurally, “Camilla” is a mess, but Tandy and Fonda are wonderful together as a fast friendship between Camilla and Freda develops. The reunion between Camilla and the Niagara Falls violin maker (Cronyn) who was her true love is inevitably poignant.

The chance to experience America’s greatest acting team since the Lunts for one final time, plus the appealing Fonda, does in fact tempt you to forgive “Camilla” its various shortcomings.

* MPAA rating: PG-13, for language and some sensuality. Times guidelines: It includes a four-letter word, discreet lovemaking. ‘Camilla’

Jessica Tandy: Camilla Cara

Bridget Fonda: Freda Lopez

Hume Cronyn: Ewald

Elias Koteas: Vince Lopez

Maury Chaykin: Harold Cara

A Miramax presentation. Director Deepa Mehta. Producers Christina Jennings, Simon Relph. Executive producer Jonathan Barker. Screenplay by Paul Quarrington. Cinematographer Guy Dufaux. Editor Barry Farrell. Costumes Milena Canonero, Elisabetta Beraldo. Music Stephen Endelman. Production designer Sandra Kybartas. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

* In limited release in Southern California.