Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Writers: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Guillaume Laurant
Stars: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus
“Honey, take your honey. Amelie is a four star date movie.”
Amelie was already buzzing after its premier at the Telluride Film Festival. Now it’s sweeping up awards, gaining momentum and heading straight for an Oscar nomination. Everyone comes out of Amelie with a smile. Amelie is a “feel good” movie that makes every girl wish she’d started out as a wallflower and leaves every guy wishing he’d have the good fortune to have an Amelie fall in love with him. But Amelie also takes on some very hard questions of life and gives them a fresh spin.
For those of you wondering whether you are a prisoner of a dull or crazy childhood, Amelie sets you free. Whoever came together to put you on this earth, Amelie makes it clear that you were born to blossom. You are first and foremost a child of your imagination, free to make yourself up while eating raspberries off your fingers, skipping rocks across puddles and photographing cloud animals. Amelie’s very neurotic mother dies in a bizarre accident and you wonder – would it have been any better if her mother had lived? Probably not. Left alone to grow up with a reclusive father, not a bad man but one seriously out to lunch, you wonder – did he notice when she turned seventeen and walked out the door? Probably not. But you do.
Amelie may begin with the accident of birth – yes, a sperm literally swims across the screen to meet an egg, an awesome accident to be sure. But to be sure you don’t miss the point, Amelie’s life really begins with Princess Di’s car accident. Well, not really. That’s just the accident that causes the accident of finding a box hidden behind the tiles of her bathroom wall that sets Amelie off on a path of do-gooding that transforms her from a wallflower stuck inside her imagination into a young woman flying along on the back seat of a handsome young man’s motorbike. Amelie is a dream come true. She dreams herself from nobody to somebody.
Amelie celebrates the small, the silly and the insignificant. When you identify with this young woman who tends tables at The Twin Windmills Café wearing clothes so wildly colorful she’s part of her own technicolor background, you fall down a rabbit hole. Suddenly, you are as large as the girl on the screen. You give a man back a box he hid when he was a boy, feel the joy of his recovering long lost memories and you’re magical. You get bright ideas. You scheme to get people what they long for. You start a gossip chain that brings two lonely, nutty people together. You’re a matchmaker. You gaslight the grocer who ridicules his retarded helper, tricking him into believing that he’s losing his mind. He turns from mean to meek. You’re a savior. You befriend an old painter nicknamed The Glass Man with bones so brittle he has to pad his furniture. The video you send of a man with a peg leg dancing on his padded TV is a sight to behold. You even figure out a way to get your father out of the house and travel the world.
And then Amelie falls in love with a man after her own heart, a heart that (with a little help from special effects) visibly thumps and flashes in her chest when their eyes meet. He’s fishing torn photos out from under a photo booth in a train station. He puts people back together again after they’ve torn themselves apart. He collects these patched personas in a big notebook but he’s obsessed by a search for one man who regularly visits all the booths in all the train stations tearing himself up over and over again. Why would a man do such a thing? Is he a man afraid of death, seeking immortality in photographs? Is he trying to come into being, a ghost without an image until he sees himself? Amelie sets her mind to the quest. Who she finds will make you laugh.
But, now what? Amelie is a figment of her imagination and she’s fallen in love with a real man. He has a job. He has a hobby. He has a motorbike. He even has a name. Nino. But, does he have a girlfriend? Is he going to like her? Will he feel about her the same way she feels about him? Either she will have to cross the line, get out of her fantasy or lure him in. She does both. Just like a woman. She seeks him out. Then she retreats. She’s bold. She wears big black boots and photographs herself dressed up like Zorro. But she’s shy. She doesn’t confront. She draws blue arrows, slips him secret notes and gives him directions that bring him to her door. Then she doesn’t answer. If you didn’t love her so much by this time, you’d tear your hair out. Finally, The Glass Man socks it to her. Well, as much as an old man with brittle bones can. He sends her a video of himself saying, “It’s time for you to take a real risk. Of course, you can choose to live in a dream if you want to. You have a perfect right to mess up your own life.”
You know the end. All romantic comedies end the same way. First, one fantasy accidentally bumps into another. Then they get together. And then, since no two fantasies are ever the same, only the photo booth knows what will develop.