Camilla Dickinson: Film Review

Pete Moroz
"Camilla Dickinson"
Early work by "Wrinkle in Time" author gets a too-ordinary adaptation.

Cornelia Duryée Moore's film adaptation of Madeleine L'Engle's novel follows daughter of a well-to-do family in 1948 Manhattan.

SEATTLE — Adapting an early novel by beloved young-adult author Madeleine L'Engle, Cornelia Duryée Moore's Camilla Dickinson struggles with an emotional obviousness that can make it feel like a film by an earnest adolescent girl instead of about one. Theatrical potential is slim despite some familiar faces in the cast and L'Engle's name on the script.

Adelaide Clemens plays the title character, daughter of a well-to-do family in 1948 Manhattan. Mom (Samantha Mathis), an emotionally retarded ex-beauty, is being romanced by a standard-issue Frenchman; Dad (Cary Elwes) is so stiff he can barely turn his neck to notice his wife's guilty glances. Camilla's best friend's brother Frank (Gregg Sulkin), despite trailing a bad reputation, approaches her with a courtship sweet enough to restore her faith in true love. Obstacles arise, ranging from the inevitable (her parents forbid her to see him) to the potentially icky (the best friend grows increasingly, ambiguously jealous).

Clemens offers a respectable performance, but is surrounded by a cast whose pervasive stiffness one suspects was intended to evoke a more bottled-up era. Instead, the acting emphasizes the weakness of a script that turns into soapy sludge over the too-long course of 117 minutes, indulging in detours (like Camilla's attempt to trick her parents into rekindling their romance) that might have been novel when the 1951 book was written but are now embarrassing.

The period look is handsome enough, but BC Smith's generically intrusive score works against any splinters of originality present in a story whose author would later create some truly imaginative tales featuring young female protagonists.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival, Northwest Connections
Production Companies: Kairos Productions, North by Northwest Entertainment
Cast: Adelaide Clemens, Samantha Mathis, Gregg Sulkin, Cary Elwes, Robert Picardo, Camryn Manheim, Margaret Colin
Director: Cornelia Duryée Moore
Screenwriters: Cornelia Duryée Moore, Madeleine L'Engle
Producer: Larry Estes
Executive producer: Rich Cowan
Director of photography: Mike Vukas
Production designer: Vincent DeFelice
Music: BC Smith
Costume designer: Lisa Caryl
Editor: Ben Dobyns
No rating, 117 minutes.

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