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Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (2001) starstarstarstar

Reviewed 2002-07-26
: The title translates as "The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain," but most US filmgoers know it as Amélie. I deliberately missed this film in the theatres because of the poster: that aggressively cute look Second Look Reviewfrom Amélie Poulain, turned me off. To me, "cute" is a four-letter word. But Audrey Tatou is actually an attractive 23-year-old. And what is more important, and what makes this film work as a comedy, is her attractive, even impish, personality. Amélie is the kind of woman who lives life like an adventure of constant surprise and discovery. And when she discovers a box of keepsakes hidden in a wall, she embarks on an adventure -- to find the owner (Maurice Bénichou) and restore the box to him -- that leads her to other adventures. In short, as the tagline says, "She'll change your life."

And so she meets and changes the lives of some extraordinary characters: Madeleine Wallace (Yolande Moreau), the landlady of her apartment building, who pines for her long-lost husband -- through a simple forgery Amélie brightens her life. She sweetens the solo existence of Raymond Dufayel (Serge Merlin) a painter who lives across the street. Collignon (Urbain Cancelier), the grocer, she persuades to be nicer to Lucien (Jamel Debbouze), his abused helper, through practical jokes. And Gina (Clotilde Mollet), the hypocondriac tobacconist in the diner where Amélie works -- she hooks her up with the customer who pines for the co-worker who dumped him. She even gets through to her cold, distant father (Rufus).

But what of Amélie herself? When it comes to helping others, Amélie is quite bold; when it comes to pursuing the man she dreams of, all she can do is wear a Zorro costume... or melt. Literally. She nearly becomes a stalker, finding out that Nino Quincampoix (Mathieu Kassovitz) works in a porn shop and has a passion for collecting discarded photo-booth photos. The wise painter, Dufayel, persuades Amélie to take a chance on love, and the result is sweet and humorously romantic. In fact, she treats her pursuit of Nino like the games she plays for her other good deeds, but with herself as the prize.

Audrey Tatou conveys a seductive personality leavened with likeableness and a zest for life. Director and co-writer Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Alien: Resurrection, 1997) has assembled an energetic cast and folded their personalities into a charming confection with a French twist. See it with someone you love who laughs.

Amélie (Le Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) (2001) 122 mins. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Written by Guillaume Laurant and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Cast: Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain, Mathieu Kassovitz as Nino Quincampoix, Rufus as Raphaël Poulain, Amélie's Father, Yolande Moreau as Madeleine Wallace, Concierge, Artus de Penguern as Hipolito, The Writer, Urbain Cancelier as Collignon, The Grocer, Dominique Pinon as Joseph, Maurice Bénichou as Bretodeau, The Box Man, Claude Perron as Eva, The Strip Teaser, Michel Robin as Mr. Collignon, Isabelle Nanty as Georgette, Claire Maurier as Suzanne, Clotilde Mollet as Gina, Serge Merlin as Raymond Dufayel, Jamel Debbouze as Lucien, the grocer's helper. Also known as: Amelie from Montmartre (2001) (International: English title); Amelie of Montmartre (2001) (International: English title: festival title); Amélie (2001) (France: working title) (International: English title) (USA); Amélie des Abbesses (1999) (France: working title); Die Fabelhafte Welt der Amelie (2001) (Germany); The Fabulous Destiny of Amelie Poulain (2001) (USA: literal English title)

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Ronald Bruce Meyer is a freelance reviewer.