Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
[originally posted 3Dec2002]
For the past two years, I have been reading reviews of Amélie that all have one thing in common: the word “sweet.” I have no idea what film these people were watching, but it wasn’t the twisted little minor gem I saw on Sunday night. “Sweet” may be the last word I’d have come up with in trying to describe it. I should have had more faith in the brilliance of Jeunet. (Of course, all of these same people persist in describing Audrey Tatou as anything from “pixie-like” to “gorgeous,” as well. I found her rather disturbing-looking, as I find everyone in Jeunet films.)
Throw the other reviews out and listen to me, will you? Amélie is the story of the title character (Audrey Tatou of Venus Beauty Institute), and there’s actually precious little story. It’s more a slice-of-life thing, during which she does such things as befriend a man with Osteogenesis Imperfecta (Serge Melin of The City of Lost Children), try to set up some of her compatriots at work, torments the local grocer Collignon (Michel Robin, presently onscreen in America in Merci pour le Chocolat), and lead a hopelessly lovestruck guy from her grade-school class (Matthieu Kassovitz, from Jakob the Liar) on a wild goose chase to discover her identity. None of which is all that sweet a thing to do, really.
Jeunet’s usual twisted sense of humor is evident here, and it rears its head often in visual clues (think Police Squad! for a more highbrow audience). The wit isn’t as dry as usual, and thus the movie doesn’t have as many laugh-out-loud funny points as Jeunet’s finest film, Delicatessen. That doesn’t make it unwatchable, but it does pale in comparison. Just be prepared to find a movie filled with subtly disturbing (especially in their appearance) people that will leave you scratching your head and wondering “what in the world was all that about?” ***