August 18, 2002

What a delightful movie. Ms. Tautou is the best Audrey to hit the screen since Hepburn. She manages to be a mischevious, seelie scamp and a sad social hermit without ever losing our attention or loyalty. The whole show is like a cartoon, full of big solid stretches of bright colors and warped perspectives that are a joy to disbelieve even when they’re real. The cinematography is such an exaggerated feat that the (very) animated special effects fit right in, more like illustrations. Through this circus of color and panache Amelie is funny, frustrating, mysterious and sweet. The movie would be charming on the merits of director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and writer Guillarme Laurant, but it feels natural because of Audrey Tautou.

Amelie the film is happily shameless and fearless while Amelie Poulain the waitress isn’t, but they’re both out to do nice things for people. Amelie is a prodigal dreamer with little sense of the world’s social boundaries, except when they apply to her. She does good deeds for a collection of oddball characters (which sometimes means punishing other characters or hand-crafting lovely lies) throughout the movie, but in a secrecy driven by shyness. She’s willing to play courtly games with the boy she likes, but unable to speak to him. I think they actually talk just the one time. Meanwhile, Amelie is trying to do something nice for us, the audience.

There are no profound revelations here, no secret understanding of life is revealed, just a beautiful little story with a lot of little reminders about lessons I think we’ve all learned before. It’s nice to be nice and while it’s easy to be nice in a world as marvelous as Amelie‘s, reality can be pretty nice, too. Sound sickeningly sweet? That’s because I don’t say it as well as Amelie. When she learns that lesson, you’ll believe it, you’ll agree with it and you’ll probably be grinning like a fool.


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