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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
A Cutie Will Lead Them
by Jeffrey Chen

I’m Jeffrey Chen. I like staring at the ocean. I like a good chicken-fried steak. I like to get up early on weekend mornings just to watch a DVD. I don’t like the sound of a rock scraping on concrete. Amélie, a French romantic comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, begins with these kinds of simplicities.

A narrator lists non-related simultaneous events; characters are introduced along with their likes and dislikes; and although events threaten to get a bit complicated during the course of the movie, it ultimately ends on the same note – that simplicity is the way to go.

Here is a movie lightweight and fanciful, constructed and presented as a fable and filled with quirky characters, not the least of which is Amélie herself, played by Audrey Tautou. She’s a woman who is very much into the world as she sees and defines it through her childlike eyes and with her naďve concepts of good and bad. When not working in a café, she moderately indulges in the things she likes to do, but she hasn’t felt fulfilled in life. An inspiration strikes her on the day Princess Diana’s death is announced. Compelled to do a secret good deed for a stranger, she decides that if his reaction is positive, she will devote herself to doing more secret good deeds. But will she do a good deed for herself when she takes interest in a young man she often spots at a photo booth? If Amélie were writing this review, I can already see her knowing look, as if to say, "We shall see." It would be cute.

In fact, "cute" is the primary word to describe this film. Everything about it is cute. Tautou as Amélie is extremely cute, always giving the viewer smiling glances, punctuating her activities with little dramatic touches, looking shy and nervous as she awaits the outcomes of her handiwork. Jeunet, without apology, runs with this style, almost turning the movie into a cross between Ally McBeal and Chungking Express. Inanimate objects come to life, funny characters appear out of nowhere, and Amélie melts into water. Watching some scenes, I couldn’t help thinking of Faye Wong’s "cutesy" glee while breaking into apartments and confounding her love interest in Chungking Express.

Amélie is not without its flaws, the most notable of which involves pacing – the middle section takes a little too long, and some parts threaten to lose the viewers interest, especially after such a briskly-paced and eye-catching opening. Thankfully, the film picks up again as it heads for the finish. And, fortunately, there’s Tautou, who’s absolutely charming.

At the end, that message of simplicity emerges again. A number of characters find happiness because of Amélie, who sets them on their way to making simple decisions leading to a happier life. Later on, she’ll have to learn this lesson for herself. It’s as if the film is saying that with adulthood comes inhibition, weariness, and self-defeat. Isn’t that sad? If your inner-child likes ice cream, why not go and buy yourself some? Just don’t scrape any rocks on the concrete on your way to the ice-cream parlor. (

(Released by Miramax Zoe and rated "R" for sexual content.)

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