Comedy, 122 Minutes, 2001
I recently decided to introduce this film, one of my absolute, all-time favorite movies for ever-and-ever, to my kids. Both of them, ages 11 and 14, groaned out loud at the idea of “reading a movie”. Both were completely entranced, as I knew they would be, in the first 10 minutes.
Written and directed by the incomparable Jean-Pierre Jeunet [IMDB] and starring the epically cast Audrey Tautou [IMDB] (I honestly don’t think this would have been possible without her) the film is a love story to the little things in life. We follow Amélie Poulain, a shy waitress in Paris that sees things just slightly… differently than those around her.
When a chance discovery gives her the opportunity to turn a good deed she begins to insert herself, quietly, into the lives of those around her in the most remarkable ways. As she does, she crosses paths with somebody that she simply can’t ignore and embarks on one of the oddest, most touching romances in the history of film.
Everything is perfect. The extended, rapid-fire opening narration sets exact the tone required; not a single beat is out of place. Tautou is Amélie and each time she briefly breaks the fourth wall, your heart will melt. The whimsical score, done primarily on toy and theater instruments, creates an envelope of warmth around the experience. The story meanders in the most wonderful way and not a single word feels extraneous or out-of-place. The large, eccentric cast of characters is constantly engaging and perfectly positioned. The visual effects, many so subtle they only impact subconsciously, are completely integrated into Amélie’s personal universe.
The story plucks liberally from urban legend, suburban myth and real life in a way that only accentuates the embracing surrealism. “Amélie” isn’t about how people act. It’s purely, wonderfully and unrepentantly a movie about how people should act. How we wish they would act and by extension about how we wish we would act. You enter this movie expecting a light, airy romantic comedy and you leave with a better impression of the entire human race simply for having existed long enough to create it.