Friday, July 03, 2009

Must Watch Friday - Amelie

This week Silhouette Desire author, Bronwyn Jameson, is delighted to present the quirky French romantic comedy (well, sort of) Amelie. Or, in its original full title, Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain.

Yep, I am absolutely delighted to talk about Amelie ...although I must admit it wasn't my first choice. I was going to do a piece on Cinderella movies, with a smooth segue to the Cinderella touch in my July book Magnate's Make-Believe Mistress. (I love everything about segues, you see, including the feel of the word on my tongue.)

But a quick search of the PHS archives revealed that both my favourite Cinderella-themed movies, Pretty Woman and Ever After, have been done already. Sooo, I thought I could do Gossip Girl but that's only "must watch" television if you want to study the Upper East Side and soap opera excesses of bad behaviour. My third thought was The Proposal, which I saw this week, but it's not out in the UK until later this month so that wouldn't be fair, would it?

And then, serendipity. One of my all-time favourites on pay-TV! Smiling, I settled in to enjoy...and didn't stop smiling until long after The End. That's one of the reasons why Amelie. sits at the top of my favourites list -- no matter how many viewings, I'm left feeling completely satisfied and joyous. And smiling. And wanting to make others feel good as well. The perfect choice for a Must Watch Friday.

So, Amelie. . It's told in a different narrative style--the narrator and subtitles are part of the story, part of the appeal!--quirky, very French, and irresistible. Because Amelie, played brilliantly by Audrey Tautou, is irresistible. She's a naive young Frenchwoman embarking on a new life as a waitress in a Montmartre coffee shop, and through the opening series of vignettes of her childhood you learn why she is such an extreme introvert. That backstory is comic and poignant and, for the writers amongst us, a master class in showing-not-telling backstory.

The story proper commences when Amelie moves to Paris, although she is still an observer of life and of people -- in the coffee shop where she works and in the apartment building where she lives. The first turning point is when she discovers, in a secret hidie-hole, a box of treasures from a previous tenant's boyhood. She sets out to find him, to return the treasures, but because of her shyness she does so from a distance...although she watches and when she sees the man's joy, she has found her life's mission. She will stop observing, listening, she will start doing something about the inequities she sees around her.

I should mention at this point the movie's logline. Amelie -- she will change your life.

Amelie's missions are many and, given her imagination and her extreme shyness, they're not approached in a usual or straight-forward fashion. At the coffee shop, she dabbles in a spot of match-making which provides some of the movie's funnier moments. She convinces her housebound father to follow his dream of world travel with true inventiveness and the help of a garden gnome (I did mention this movie was quirky, yes?) She turns around a neighbour's sadness over her cheating husband, and her vengeance against a pig of a shopkeeper is a thing of charm and beauty. I defy anyone not to fall in love with Amelie based on this alone!

In betwixt all her anonymous do-gooding, Amelie becomes embroiled in a minor mystery involving pictures of a man taken and discarded in rail-station photo booths. The photos have been found and collected by a mysterious stranger, Nino (Mathieu Kassovitz), to whom Amelie is drawn. She melts, literally. Although her shyness proves a huge barrier when it comes to meeting the man. And so we get to the real heart of the story: Amelie has been busily changing other lives, but what about her own? Can she stop observing life and grab it for herself? Can she change her own life?

Amelie has developed a friendship with a housebound neighbour, who spends his life painting Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party over and over. There's a girl in the centre background (observing the central characters!) that he can't get quite right and their dialogue about this girl, about the parallels with Amelie, bring her inner conflict to the fore. The movie's climax is her quest to meet Nino although, being Amelie, this is neither straightforward nor simple. It is, however, whimsical and charming and original. Which pretty much sums up Amelie, the character, and Amelie. , the movie.

Why do I love this movie so much? For its joie de vivre, its touches of dark humour, its unexpectedness, its bright colour and detail (I swear, I see something new with every viewing.) For Amelie's unique character; she is what Regency novels refer to as a "true original". For Audrey Tautou, who lives and breathes the character. For Paris, as seen through Amelie's childlike eyes. For how all the subplots play together to enhance the theme. For its core message, that little touches can bring the most happiness.

And for our irrepressible heroine's own happy ending. Hooray!

Warm and fuzzy rating: 10 out of 10.

What is top of your Must Watch list? Which one movie is your perfect 10 out of 10 feel-good experience?

Bronwyn's current release Magnate's Make-Believe Mistress--the one with a touch of Cinderella--is a July, 2009 release from Silhouette Desire. It's a story about a woman who needs to find her own happiness instead of always looking out for those around her. Read the behind-the-book stuff at her website.


  1. Ah...Amelie... This ranks right up there for me, so much so that I named my first daughter after it!
    Now I have to go and watch it again after reading such a great write up.

  2. I'd not heard of this movie (yeah, head in sand the past few months), but your delightful take on it makes me want to go get it. Thanks! Enjoyed the post.

  3. Bronwyn, I love this movie, and you're right, Amelie is a truly delightful heroine! If pushed, however, I'd have to say my all-time favourite foreign film would be 'Bread and Tulips' -- another 10/10 warm and fuzzy experience.

  4. Becca, I LOVE the name as well as the movie. Bet your daughter is just as much a charmer as the character.

    Lyn, Amelie is quite a few years old so you should be able to find at wherever you rent DVDs. Definitely worth seeking out.

    Liz and Michelle, knew you were women of unerring discernment. :-) Michelle, I'm not familiar with Bread and Tulips but am off to google (or bing!) right now.


  5. I have never seen it, but I will now!
    I am not a big movie person but one I always go back to, that always makes me feel good is Love Acutally.
    carol x

  6. Bron, I love this movie, too. It's quirky and charming and romantic. But it's been ages since I've watched it -- I saw it at the cinema when it fiorst came out, and again on SBS I think, but after this wonderful post I might have to rent it out and watch it again.

    But how to name my top 10 movies? Impossible. I do know that Cary Grant would be in quite a few of them --I love those screwball romantic comedies he did. What else... oh, too many to name.

  7. My favorite feel good movie is The Holliday.

  8. Bronwyn,

    What a great post. This is such a fun movie - guaranteed to make you feel good. I love all the quirky characters. It's just such fun!

    As for a fave film, I'm like Anne - too hard to name just one. There are so many terrific ones. Hey, I saw The Proposal this last week too! A nice way to spend an evening with my daughter.


  9. Carol, oh, I adore Love Actually and the cast and the humour and the various views on love. Perfect feel-good movie. And do try Amelie, I think you'll like.

    Anne, yes, grab it, watch it! I reckon, like me, you'll see bits you'd never noticed. Like the use of colour, which I'd missed first time around, and the significance of the painting.

    And why does it not surprise me that you'd be a fan of comedy with sharp, funny dialogue with a bite?


  10. Mari, is this The Holiday with Queen Latifah? Have only seen the shorts which struck me as definitely feel-good.

    Hi Annie! Another Amelie fan!! I'm betting you and your daughter had a wonderful laugh together at The Proposal. Really entertaining, wasn't it?


  11. Bronwyn, that's a good movie too. The movie the Holliday I was referring to is with Jude Law, Cam Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black. If you haven't seen it, please do, it is a very heartwarming film.

  12. Of course, Mari, yes! Blushing. I love that movie -- as well as the romantic relationships there are wonderful bonds with secondaries. Absolutely 10 out of 10 feelgood!!!