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Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.
Written by Guillaume Laurent.
Starring Audrey Tautou and Mathieu Kassovitz.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  11/29/01


On the advice of a few others, plus my own interest in reading subtitles for a couple of hours, I went to see the much-hyped French film “Amelie” today with my friend Katy for an afternoon matinee.  Since foreign movies that make it to the States must be at least decent, I knew that I would be in for a treat.

“Amelie” follows a story arc (but, not a visual style) amazingly close to last year's Best Picture nominee “Chocolat.”  In that regard, this lighthearted comedy follows the title character (played by Audrey Tautou) as she decides to pursue a life of do-goodedness and improve the happiness of those she comes into contact with in 1997 Paris, following the death of Princess Di.  Whether it be helping her restaurant patrons find true love, or help a local man rediscover his lost relationship with a child, or help her dad find a reason to get out of the house, Amelie finds creative ways to solve all kinds of problems in a fun way...and, somehow finds the time to pursue a childhood companion (Mathieu Kassovitz) that she may or may not be in love with.

As I said, this movie felt like “Chocolat” constantly.  Tautou first off looks very, very similar to Juliette Binoche...the story takes place in a France of the past...the main character is driven by making the locals feel good...the main character finds an unlikely romance in an outsider that makes his way through the town.  But, the biggest difference is director Jean-Pierre Jeunet's style.  He creates a beautiful world in this film, one that is mostly based in reality but adds enough little touches of fantasy to make it stand apart.  Being French, there are a gratuitous amount of sex-related things going on here, but nothing that will make going to see this film with your mom too uncomfortable.  It doesn't hurt that this film is very well shot and Tautou is a great screen presence, too.  The picture depends more on Tautou's performance than Binoche's in “Chocolat” and as such, we feel for her throughout the film's brilliant first 100 minutes or so.

But, much like North Carolina's Jason Capel, “Amelie” runs into trouble as it tries to finish the break.  Without giving anything away, when the film tries to wrap up the title character's romantic troubles, the movie dragged out its final twenty minutes to the point where Katy looked over at me and said simply, “Yeah, you know what?  That is ONE too many notes being passed around!”  (You have to see it to know what I mean.)  Director Jeunet just doesn't seem to know how to walk away from his narrative and it results in the film straying from the perfection it sets up so well throughout.

Otherwise, this is one of the best films of the year.  Lots of laughs (the scenes with “the gnome” will have you rolling), lots of great supporting cast members, and the rarity that is a film for everyone, despite the feeling you guys might get that this is a “chick flick.”  But, why can't movies just end any more?  “Mulholland Drive” had a similar problem—if you just cut off the ending, it would be in the all-time classic mold, but it dragged 30 extra minutes that left me in the dust.

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09