Amélie (2001)


Have you ever felt like being proud of yourself for you have anonymously helped others, and then inspired to do more kindness to more people, just because of the previous little success? That's what Amélie Poulain felt. Predictable to be a single-character centered film, yet "Amélie" spoke more via its dynamic, fast-paced shots. "Quirky" maybe the best term to describe it in short, although I doubt that "quirky" also means "pretty". Jean-Pierre Jeunet invited us to join a quite hysterical but joyfully exciting real-life experience of Amélie, with her views and plans. This French film was one of the most favored foreign language film in Academy Award 2002, while it’s currently ranked on Top 250 IMDB for years.

Amélie Poulain (played by Audrey Tautou) was the only daughter of Raphael (played by Rufus), a distant father who rarely made physical contact to her, and Amandine (played by Lorella Cravotta), an anxious mother who works as a headmistress. She grown without enough social interaction with her surroundings, so she created her own imagination and fantastical world in her mind. As she grew up to be a young woman, she moved to her own apartment and worked as a waitress in a cafe. All of her journey then began after she found a small box containing boy’s toys and pictures inside her wall and decided to find the owner of the box to return it to him.

Amélie Poulain
"I like to look for things no one else catches." - Amélie

Jean-Pierre Jeunet combined absurd comedy, fantastical sub stories, deep characterization, heart-warming drama, and few whodunit-style mysteries altogether in a single film. "Amélie" is, in brief, a series of plans executed by Amélie to indirectly and anonymously help people around her in a certain way that avoid her to look like a savior. She didn't give exactly what others want, instead she did things that eagerly attracted them to feel like life does work for them. For example, she helped his dad, who really wanted to have a trip around the world, not by directly—let's say—giving him an airplane ticket and a vacation voucher. Instead, she consecutively sent photos of a gnome statue, that she stole from his dad's garden, posing on many world's icon places (it's like the gnome ran away from the garden to have a trip around the world). Of course the gnome didn't really do the trip: Amélie set the gnome's poses, took the photos, and sent them to her dad to motivate him to do his trip. Or, see how she changed the mind of her widow neighbor, who wrongly accused her deceased husband for cheating on her, by sending a fake letter to her containing a first-person confession on how her husband loved her so much. All these Amélie's plans may sound so imaginative and unreal (James Berardinelli said in his review that her plans were somehow “...analogous  to the workings of a Rube Goldberg project...”), but it’s where all the absurd and fantasy came from. In the end, when she was busy doing her plans and unexpectedly had a crush, we'll be shown a moral conflict that conclude all the things that Amélie has done, which I suspect many of us had encountered in our life.

The great thing was, all these seemingly repetitive cues didn't go plainly and boringly. Maybe the last part was a little bit exhausting but overall, Jean-Pierre Jeunet did a good job for creatively putting all the points where viewers probably feel tired, in multiple style of visualization. While at first we had a quite long voice-over, symmetric composition, and moving camera, as the duration went we'll be taken to experience other forms of storytelling using many different variations. So, don’t you be surprised if you’ll find suddenly there were some men in a photograph popped out of their frame and chit-chatted to each other or things like that. Jeunet unhesitatingly implemented all these metaphors and comical animations into such a character-centered drama like “Amélie”. Of course, this quirky style won’t work without the main power of the film: the acting of the leading roles, especially Audrey Tautou. Maybe at first I couldn’t clearly see if Amélie was a shy girl (and that’s why I said the last part was a little bit exhausting), but Tautou outstandingly nailed it. She brought straightforwardness, bravery (or audaciousness, more precisely :P), tenderness, and imagination to Amélie. With an addition of edgy outlook she had, maybe it’s not an exaggeration to mention Amélie as one of most memorable characters in movies of all time (Empire Online made a list of 100 greatest list of movie characters and put Amélie on rank 45). Jeunet was the mastermind of it: he showed off his characters in a very humorous way, by bringing them in a voice-over mentioning his “likes” and “dislikes” covered with a short scene picturing it. Very unique and possibly bring laughters.


Finally, “Amélie” is a story that people won’t believe if it’s a true event or just a work of fiction. Well, it doesn’t matter, ‘though. The thing is, “Amélie” is a nice work of art with a strong characterization and an eye-catching style. “Amélie” is a proof that quirkiness can turn out into an entertainment. It won’t thrill or shock you, it didn’t even surprise you, but it’s truly a sweet visual work that will refresh up your mind, bring back your mood, and—somehow—inspire you.


4 out of 5 stars

 ▲  Unique, strong characterization
 ▼  May turn boring with all its quirkiness and absurdities

AMÉLIE | ORIGINAL TITLE Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain COUNTRY France YEAR 2001 RATING Rated R for sexual content RUNTIME 122 min GENRE Comedy, Romance CAST Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Dominique Pinon, Serge Merlin, Isabelle Nanty WRITER Guillaume Laurant (scenario & dialogue), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (scenario) DIRECTOR Jean-Pierre Jeunet IMDB RATING 8.5/10 (Top 250 #62) METACRITIC 69/100 (Generally Favorable) ROTTEN TOMATOES 90% (Certified Fresh) MORE INFO

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