Review: Amélie

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If you are having "one of those days" - a day when you have 5 essays due, your significant other has told you they "want more space", you were stuck in traffic for 45 minutes because of a train, and by the time you get home you have missed your favourite show - do yourself a favour and go see Amélie. You get the "Jeremy Maron guarantee" that this film will put a smile (at LEAST temporarily) on even the most cynical grouch's face. There is something here for everyone regardless of age, sex, or sense of humour.

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet brings this innocently sexual comedy/drama to us all the way from France. Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) is our title character who has had her share of misfortune and traumatic experiences in her childhood (which is glossed over in a hilariously quick, but entertaining beginning). Now Amélie is all grown up and is a waitress in a French diner. She is the kind of girl every guy who hates the bar scene could wish to meet. She's shy, discreet, sweet, and enjoys the simple pleasure of life such as putting her hand into a bag of grain, or skipping stones. One day a serendipitous discovery make Amélie decides to dedicate her life to generating happiness (mostly) within the lives of the sad, lonely, angry, etc, people around her. We're not talking here about becoming a nun - just random acts of kindness. Eventually, one of Amélie's good deeds puts her in a romantic cat and mouse chase with Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz). The beautiful thing is, the cat and mouse keep changing roles.

Audrey Tautou was an excellent choice for the character of Amélie. She has beautifully big eyes that look innocent even as she is trying to figure out how many couples in the village below her are having orgasms. While this wide-eyed innocence is charming for most of the film (especially in the beginning sequence of Amelie's childhood), it does get a little too sugary by the end of the film. As she continually sends mixed signals to the increasingly intrigued Nino, you cannot decide if you want to hug Amélie or smack her.

As I mentioned, the film starts off with a hilarious recapitulation of Amélie's childhood. However, this beginning may be too funny for its own good. It puts the audience in the wrong frame of mind for the rest of the film. While the remainder of the movie is definitely humorous, there are no parts that inspire theatre-wide laughter like in the beginning. This is not to say the remainder of the rest of the movie is not enjoyable. It is just that it may not be exactly what you'd expect after the beginning.

Despite the fact that you feel like you've eaten a bag of sugar by the end of Amélie, it is a charming and extremely humorous story of self-discovery through helping others. The acting here is better than a lot of movies recently. The characters in here, while exaggerated, are real (maybe with the exception of Amélie herself). One final note - to anyone that is trying to expose their significant other to foreign films, Amélie would be a good one to start with.

Tags: Amélie, Audrey Tautou, Jean-Pierre Jeunet

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