December 13, 2001 -- "Amélíe" (also known by other titles listed above) is a magical movie about a sort of alternate universe where even shy people can make a difference in the world.
The film's title character, Amélíe Poulain (played by Audrey Tautou) is a kind of childlike woman, uncorrupted by the world around her, and unaffected by the cynicism of others, or even by her own upbringing in a dysfunctional family (her father, played by Rufus, is afraid to leave his property).
One day, Amélíe finds a tiny box filled with childhood treasures hidden in her apartment. She decides to try to find the original owner and return the box. This experience changes her life and she resolves to help others around her. Not only does she help others, but she punishes those who mistreat others, like the overbearing vegetable salesman (played by Urbain Cancelier) who treats his employee (played by Jamel Debbouze) cruelly.
The way she helps and punishes others is very circumspect, however. She cleverly drops hints, she leaves notes, she conducts sly missions of very subtle sabotage. Only her wise old neighbor, an eccentric painter (played by Serge Merlin) suspects what she is up to. One of her schemes involves kidnapping a garden leprechaun and sending back picture postcards of its worldwide travels to its owner. Not all of her schemes work, but the world is a better place for Amélíe's meddling.
The film is filled with colorful, eccentric characters, like those mentioned above, and Nino Quincampoix (the object of Amélíe's affections, played by Mathieu Kassovitz of "Eyewitness"), the perpetually jealous Joseph (Dominique Pinon), Amélíe's hypochondirac co-worker, Georgette (Isabelle Nanty), Hipolito, an unpublished writer (Artus de Penguern), and many others. The key character, however, is Amélíe. Audrey Tautou seems luminous in the title role. She embodies an effervescent sense of wonder about everyday life and little mysteries and details that others would miss. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet "Alien Resurrection," "Delicatessan") uses some visual tricks to add to the film's sense of wonder. In one scene he has the shy, embarrassed Amélíe literally collapse into a puddle of water. The film also uses numerous flashbacks to establish Amélíe's troubled history. It also uses a montage of images to establish the likes and dislikes of characters, sort of a quick opinion poll. During her part in the opinion poll, Amélíe says she likes old movies, but doesn't like it when the movie character driving the car doesn't watch where he is driving.
Writers Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant ("City of Lost Children") succeed in creating a gentle, whimsical alternate universe (the film used 60 Paris locations) that somehow doesn't seem all that farfetched. It makes you wish the real world was like this movie. It is a light story filled with wonder and good humor, a real audience pleaser. This film rates a B.
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