Movie Reviews
3:15 pm
Tue December 4, 2001

Amelie

She's a little troublemaker with a big heart, and if you don't watch her, she'll steal the gnome from your garden and then your heart.

The French romantic comedy "Amelie" has been a big hit in Europe, so I approach it with respect and an eagerness to prove 50 million Frenchmen wrong. Somebody needs to watch the eponymous Amelie closely: she's a little troublemaker with a big heart, and if you don't watch her, she'll steal the gnome from your garden and then your heart.

Amelie commits her grandest scheme by trying to connect with an introverted porno store clerk through a series of clues and coincidences that would make Tom Twyker envious. In fact, the frenetic pace of Twyker's Lola, as she races for love, seems to have influenced director Jeunet. The romantic ingenuity of "Moulin Rouge" with its lovers' dreamlike pursuit of each other is here as well.

I am distracted, however, by the conscious effort to ingratiate, both in the way-out vignettes (like sending a fake final love letter from a dead husband to a forlorn wife) and the many close-ups of the lovely, bemused Amelie. It is like watching "Life is Beautiful" for the 10th time--the bloom has long ago blown off by the film's obvious campaign to be relentlessly cute.

Paris, however, is another story. Montmarte is lovingly photographed, not expressionistically as it was in "Moulin Rouge" but spiritually; anything can happen anywhere, and it will be magical if Amelie is in charge of the event.