Audiences are elbowing into theaters crowing their adoration for this film before the opening credits even roll. People are hungry for a non-threatening, non-challenging, foreign-but-not-too-foreign feelgood experience, and word's out at the local Starbucks that this is it. Never mind that director Jean-Pierre (Alien: Resurrection) Jeunet's film is utterly tangential, flips from fantasy to reality at awkward moments, and sells its supposed originality down the river for a romantic resolution predictable enough to be a Love Boat subplot.
To get at the core of a movie like "Amélie," it pays to consider the source: France. Let us briefly consider the top exports France has introduced to the rest of the world:
1. Cheese with mold growing on it
2. Gerard Depardieu
3. Unconditional surrender
I'd include the franc, but it apparently surrendered to the "Euro" earlier this year.
But this isn't the France that Amélie (Audrey Tautou) inhabits, oh no. Amélie flits through a sanitized Paris without crowds, filth, rude people, or, as Maggie Thatcher once so famously put it, "armpit stench that could knock a buzzard off a shitwagon from clear across the channel." Amélie goes to work at her curiously non-demanding job in a sidewalk café or white flag factory or wherever and, indirectly inspired by Princess Di's death, decides to become a whirling dervish of doe-eyed goodness in the lives of her wacky neighbors.
You can take it from there: Each wacky neighbor's raison d'etre has been boiled down to a singular problem, and thanks to Amélie's mischief, the problem is solved by film's end. Her delicate artist neighbor (Serge Merlin) seeks inspiration; her building's landlady, Madeleine (Yolande Moreau), longs for the past; coworker Georgette (Isabelle Nanty) is a hypochondriac seeking love; her father (Rufus) dreams of a life of travel. Guess which one of the above turns into Rick Steves?
Amélie's problem, of course, is that all this altruism is just her roundabout way of realizing that she needs herself a man, and Nico (Mathieu Kassovitz) wanders into her field of view at just the right time. As they play hide-and-seek in the streets of Paris, the question of whether they'll be brought together or torn asunder by wild wolves is cast in doubt only by the mounting sense that they'd better hurry up and get on with it, because this is France, after all, and at any moment Germany might decide it's bored.
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