Amelie is about an introverted young woman with a healthy passion for life’s simple pleasures who discovers her true calling when she anonymously returns a long-forgotten collection of mementos to a stranger and subsequently changes his life in ways he could never imagine. From that point forward, she takes it upon herself to be the guardian angel behind the curtain and do whatever it takes to improve the lives of those around her. Then one day she happens upon a kindred spirit who is more or less the boy version of her, but she can’t bring herself to act on her emotions because she’s too caught up in helping everyone else to know how to help herself. Such is the plight of Ms. Amelie Poulain from Montmartre.
So with the exception of Micmacs (which I have yet to see) and Alien: Resurrection (how on Earth did he get attached to that?), I’m confident in saying that the works of Jean-Pierre Jeunet are a collection that will make you fall in love with movies. You can start anywhere and probably come out with the same conclusion, but this is the one I started with, this is the one you probably should start with, and I don’t think my low expectations have ever been quite so nuked the way they were on that fated day I rented this from the library.
Just as a heads up, I’m gonna be using the word “life” a lot in this review because that one syllable is pretty much this whole movie in a nutshell. It’s not about booze, drugs, sex or any of the other joys that adults tend to associate with happiness, it’s about everything else that doesn’t cost a dime and taps into our inner children in ways that movies rarely do. It’s taking a spoon and cracking the shell of a crème brulée, it’s skipping stones, it’s sinking your hand into a sack of grain, it’s popping bubble wrap, it’s all the things that were once endlessly entertaining in an age of innocence and it’s like experiencing them all for the first time.
Might sound like an odd premise to revolve a movie around from the outset, but trust me, it’s brilliant and it works because you know you love popping bubble wrap as much as the next guy or gal. But that’s just part of it, the other part being the crushing and healing powers of love, as corny as that may sound. Whereas a couple of Amelie’s neighbors are stuck in a rut thanks to blindness or having a crappy boss, most of ’em are out of love, jealous or heartbroken, and watching them help each other out of those shells by letting them in is something that never gets old, Amelie’s love life in particular.
It’s whimsical and it’s honest and it’s stunning the way Jeunet captures it all.
I love how every little detail of each new scene is bathed in faded, rustic color tones, I love the accordions and pianos that make up the score and continually elevate the emotional weight of even the most everyday actions to the point where it feels like you’re in a hall of wonders, I love the breathtakingly fast pace that Jeunet moves along without ever feeling rushed and I love the way he’s having just as much fun behind the camera as his characters are having in front of it. The timing, the vision and the detail are just exceptional here, it’s a blast to watch, and the style is as beautiful as the substance.
And whether it’s dialogues between people and photographs, Amelie counting down how many different lovers are climaxing at the exact same moment or the ingenious ways she gets revenge on the meanest grocer in town, there were times when this movie had me howling. Smiling’s a given with this one, but it really does have a great sense of humor that makes everything that much more fun. Jeunet’s script is just so well written from a comedic as well as universal standpoint and it’s incredible how many unique character arcs he throws into the mix without having any of them feel expendable.
The most prominent being Amelie herself and the amazing Audrey Tautou who was the absolute perfect choice to play her. Very much in the same way she is for those around her, getting to know Amelie is a breath of fresh air. So full of life, so delightful to be around, one of those people you wish were real just so you could have them near to brighten things up. That Audrey Tautou, what a freakin’ charmer.
Also nice that she’s just one of many Jeunet regulars who all blow away their respective roles. If only every town had regulars like those in Montmartre.
Geez Louise, I wish there was an Achilles’ heel in here somewhere, but everything about this baby really is out of sight. It’s really something to find movies that are such achievements on both a technical and emotional level as this is, movies that exemplify the value of paying it forward and random acts of kindness, movies the world could really use more of. I don’t know if it was meant to leave that kind of impression, but that’s what I always come away with far more so than the lovey-dovey stuff even though that was fantastic, too.
Amelie is the kind of movie that could change a life, or at the very least one’s outlook on it. I’ve seen this three times now and I really can’t think of any other movie that’s ever made me so happy that it made me tear up from the first 15 minutes right to the end credits with each new viewing. As someone who truly appreciates the experience of a cold beer in a hot shower along with the countless other pleasures that life has to offer, this is a movie after my own heart and an incredible testament to the everyday miracles and mysteries that we often take for granted with age or routine. Call it cute, call it quirky, I won’t argue with ya’, but it’ll put a hop in your step, it’ll make you take a look at the world in ways you haven’t done in ages and you’d be flat-out crazy to write off something so genuine and wonderful as a “chick flick”.
CRAZY, I tell ya’!