A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 336 – Amelie

Amelie – January 30th, 2011

It’s so very strange not to be watching a Star Trek movie right now. It feels bizarre, to be honest. After two weeks of them, I feel slightly bereft without them. But I suppose I have the entirety of TNG to pop in if I want. Maybe later. For now it’s time for a movie, and we decided that sine we’ve spent the past two weeks watching American science fiction we’re incredibly familiar with, tonight we should watch something different. Something subtitled and foreign. Something one or both of us hadn’t seen before. Well, Andy’s seen this one, but I hadn’t, so it fits the bill. It’s certainly been an overhype victim for me. And I will admit now, having seen it, I was a fool to leave it so long.

Having seen ads and trailers and heard glowing review after glowing review, I expected something overly twee that might end up making me roll my eyes a bit. What can I say? I’m a cynic much of the time. I expected whimsical and sweet and quirky. And oh, yes, I got all of that. Sentimental too. I expected sentimental. And really, the movie is all of these things. And being all of these things, it might have been rather difficult to make it also something that entertained me. I have a low tolerance for twee. Yet somehow this movie manages to be entirely made of whimsy and sentiment and not feel like it’s sagging under the weight of too much frill and frippery.

The movie is ostensibly the story of a young woman named Amelie. She was raised in a somewhat solitary setting, taught at home by her mother until her mother’s death. She lives her life much inside her own mind, filling the world around herself with fantasies. Until one day she finds a tin hidden in her apartment and sets out to find the man who hid it decades ago when he was a boy. In doing so she opens up a whole new path for herself, finding little ways to help those around her. She sets up a coworker with a regular customer. She forges a letter to console a neighbor about her long deceased husband. She goes about a number of little quests to make other lives happier. Which is why I say the movie is only ostensibly about Amelie.

Yes, the movie is, from beginning to end, her story. It’s about this young woman and her life and how she goes from solitary to connected without losing what makes her special. That one first quest leads her to meeting her neighbors, making friends with them, finding out about their lives and little dramas. She pays more attention to her coworkers and reaches out to them. She’s always found joy in little things, but now those little things involve people, not just objects. She even finds a way to help her father without ever letting him know it’s her. In fact, most of the things she does she manages to keep anonymous. Only one person really figures out what she’s up to and then he helps her when she finds a young man and pursues him only to realize that she can’t bring herself to stop being anonymous. But in and among all of her stories are the stories of everyone else. The movie takes a step out here, a moment there, showing us and telling us the backgrounds of everyone involved. So it’s the story not just of a young woman, but of the entire intangible social network that builds around her.

To be honest, I’m still processing the movie even a couple of hours after it finished. I’m not entirely sure how it pulled itself off. While there’s mischief, and some decidedly negative attitudes in some of the characters, the focus of the movie itself is so relentlessly positive one would think it would be too much on one side for me. And it wasn’t at all. It somehow maintains this pleasant and curious tone for two hours. All the little asides and stories, all of Amelie’s quirks and idiosyncrasies, they all come together to make this movie bizarrely delightful in a way I can’t argue with. I can’t find much fault with it aside from some quibbles with tonal changes between the storytelling in the beginning and the storyshowing near the end (I like both, but they don’t quite segue as smoothly as I’d like). It is simply a lovely movie, light and sweet but not cloying, which means it defied my expectations in all the right ways.


January 30, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. The original French title “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain”, “The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain”, alerts the viewer to the tone of the film better than the shorter “Amélie”. It’s full of whimsy.

    [Connie Bailey (Thelma Todd): Oh, Professor, you’re full of whimsy.

    Prof. Quincy Adams Wagstaff (Groucho Marx): Can you notice it from there? I’m always that way after I eat radishes.]

    Comment by Doc Wheat | January 31, 2011 | Reply

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