Picks and Pans Review: Camilla

updated 01/23/1995 at 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/23/1995 01:00AM

Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Bridget Fonda

There are two very good reasons to see this thin-as-twine chronicle of a feisty old lady redirecting the life of a confused young woman. One of those reasons is Tandy in one of her final screen appearances; the other is her husband, Cronyn. There are no other reasons.

Fonda, in a surprisingly monochromatic performance, is a musician and songwriter living in Toronto who is uncertain about her talent and even less sure about her marriage to a commercial artist (Elias Koteas). On vacation in Georgia, Fonda meets Tandy, who by her own account (as it turns out, a rather embroidered one) is a former concert violinist of world renown who once was pursued by dukes and "named for one of the great whores of all times." Now she leads a far simpler life, practicing the violin, airing her memories and dealing with her oafish son (Maury Chaykin).

When Koteas decides to cut short the vacation to pursue a job offer, he insists that Fonda come with him, patronizingly pointing out that her music is only a hobby. She decides to stay on in Georgia alone, and with Tandy as guide, embarks on a journey of self-realization. For Tandy it's a sentimental journey, leading to a reunion with the love of her life (Cronyn). Camilla contains elements of Tandy's other recent movies. As in Driving Miss Daisy she has an overbearing son; as in Fried Green Tomatoes she's the mentor of a confused soul. As in both she soars above the sometimes tired, treacly material.

Whatever poignance Camilla possesses cannot be credited to the screenwriter or director. It comes from the insistent awareness that Tandy's radiance has expressed itself for one of the last times. The movie's final shot—on a beach, with Cronyn kissing his wife's hand—is imbued with a lovely, haunting, wistful glow. (PG-13)

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