A romantic comedy of a different kind about a shy young woman in Paris who seeks happiness by helping others
The Bottom Line
Truly uplifting and worthy of a best picture nomination (at least out of the films released thus far
The Full Review
Having grossed well in excess of $100 million at the box office, last year’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon became the first foreign film to reach true blockbuster status in America. Certainly, the dazzling martial arts choreography and special effects helped extend the appeal of that film beyond what might have otherwise been a traditional foreign-film audience. Nevertheless, the overwhelming success of Crouching Tiger did open up at least the possibility that future subtitled films could expand their U.S. run beyond the confines of the art-house circuit
This year’s foreign film du jour is, for good reason, shaping up to be Le Fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain, also know as Amélie From Montmarte, also know as Amélie. Written and directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Amélie tells the story of Amélie Poulain, a timid young woman, whose vivid imagination and ability to find comfort in life’s simple pleasures enable her to endure an otherwise listless existence. The part of Amélie is played to perfection by 23-year old Audrey Tatou, who, at least physically, can be described as a cross between Audrey Hepburn and Juliette Binoche.
The film opens with a series of quirky and highly amusing vignettes set during Amélie’s childhood. Through these vignettes, the audience learns a great deal about Amélie and the things that shaped her during the early part of her life. We learn, for example, that the only time Amélie’s father would make physical contact with the young child is during her monthly doctor checkups. In those few occurrences, the exceptional closeness makes Amélie’s heart pump extraordinarily fast, which her father foolishly interprets as a cardiac abnormality. As a result, Amélie’s parents become highly overprotective, sheltering the young girl from nearly everything in life.
As a grown woman, while Amélie is able to find joy from such small things as cracking the crust of a crème brulèe with the back of her teaspoon, sinking her hand into a sack of grain, and skipping stones on a canal, her life is without true happiness. Things begin to change, however, when Amélie discovers a “memory box” left behind by a boy who had lived in her apartment many years before. Upon returning the box to its owner, Amélie is so deeply touched by the man’s reaction that she views this newfound ability to make a difference in other people’s lives as her true calling. Among the other people whose lives Amélie ultimately seeks to straighten out are Dufayel, an old man whose congenital illness has kept him from leaving his home for the past 20 years, Lucien, who works for a contemptible grocer that takes pleasure in humiliating others, and Georgette, a hypochondriac co-worker of Amélie’s. But, it isn’t until Amélie comes across a young man named Nino (he collects photo booth strips and works as a part-time cashier at a porn shop) that she begins to realize the one person she really needs to help is herself.
The opening vignettes
The acting – Audrey Tatou, Serge Merlin (Dufayel) and Mathieu Kassovitz (Nino)
The screenplay – Guillaume Laurant
The music – Yann Tiersen
None really, although some have felt the film was a bit long; and
A friend mentioned that some may find the quirkier scenes in the film (i.e. Amélie melting into a puddle of water) too reminiscent of “Ally McBeal.” I felt that Jeunet was able to pull these scenes off quite effectively.
Humor: Many humorous scenes
Amélie on IMDB