(Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain) (2001)
Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * * * *

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Amélie (Audrey Tautou), a young Parisian waitress, decides to help those around her by interfering in their lives. As she subsequently reunites families, torments the wicked, draws the isolated out of their seclusion, and so on, she finds a man with a heart like her own and begins to fall in love with him.

No description of Amélie's narrative can convey how consistently joyous and truly lovely Jean-Pierre Jeunet's film is. The director has created in his title character a vivacious, mischievous, and absolutely charming young woman, and his visual style imbues her adventures with a palpable magic.

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Through the whole of the movie's duration, Jeunet presents the viewer with the lovely, tinted Paris Amélie sees, allowing him to immerse himself in her quaint and dreamy world. He gives Amélie's perspectives, reactions, feelings, and imagination visible expression with moving paintings of animals, winking statues, and fanciful newscasts about the character's saintliness, projecting her internal world onto her environment so that she inhabits every part of the film. By doing so, the director lets the viewer see just what the character feels so that he completely loses himself in her personality. In one touching scene, for example, Jeunet manifests Amélie's nervousness around the man with whom she is falling in love by showing her physically dissolving into water. Such devices are effectively used throughout and give the movie a distinctive charm.

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Fortunately, the title character is so genuinely likeable, so bursting with a love of life, that the viewer cannot but delight in and be charmed by her personality. Jeunet really has created one of film's most endearing and enduring characters. She is not, however, the only memorable character in the movie. There is hardly a person Amélie encounters who is not so wonderfully quirky, whether because he is gratuitously nasty, insanely jealous, sweetly innocent, or oddly obsessed, that the viewer will not be fascinated by him and, at least briefly, made to inhabit his unique personal world. The director really does deserve some credit for having successfully crafted so many such individuals, especially since the majority of deliberately eccentric characters who appear in film are burdened with peculiarities that tend to be so forced they are more annoying than anything else.

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Of course, Jeunet could never have given these persons such a vibrant life had he not had the cast he did. Amélie herself is brilliantly realized by Audrey Tautou. The actress infuses her character with an impish mischievousness and a real innocence and goodheartedness. She is, however, hardly the only performer who excels. The acting in the film is universally good, and the various unusual characters with whom Amélie interacts are all nicely portrayed as a consequence.

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Amélie absolutely abounds with sprightly energy. It is an enchanting movie and leaves the viewer with a wonderful sense of happiness, of the mirthful, playful lightness of life.

Review by Keith Allen

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