Amélie (2001) – Ace Mini-Review

Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (Amélie)
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Mathieu Kassovitz
Written by: Guillaume Laurant, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
France/Germany, 2001

How good is this movie?

I like this movie, with its moments of sweetness, whimsy, and humour, but there’s a cold nugget of cynicism at its heart that keeps me from loving it. Many of Amélie’s schemes are charming, but they are occasionally mean-spirited, and the jokes can be quite dark. Not that dark humour can’t be fun, but it doesn’t combine well with heartwarming, which is clearly what the movie is going for.

How ace is this movie?

Amélie is a single and celibate woman with a rich imagination to keep her company. She takes an active interest in the lives of her neighbours and enjoys simple pleasures like dipping her hand in a bag of lentils or cracking the top of a crème brûlée. This seems at first like a positive portrayal of the kind of celibacy many asexuals practise. However, as the story develops the film proves to be quite erotonormative, with romantic relationships portrayed as the main basis of a happy life, and sex as the main basis of such relationships. We are told that Amélie tried once or twice to have a boyfriend, but that “the results did not live up to her hopes”. All we see of her “trying” is one shot of her having sex with a man, an expectant look on her face. Since we know nothing about the man’s personality or what they do together out of bed, we can only conclude that for Amélie “trying” means having sex, and that disappointment comes when the sex is unsatisfactory. Sex is also central to the relationship between Joseph and Georgette, who go directly from doing scratch cards together to having sex in the bathroom, with nothing in the way of meaningful conversation passing between them.

As for Amélie and Nino, Amélie seems to fall in love with him at first sight. Despite the shakiness of this foundation, M. Dufayel pushes her to pursue a romance with this man she has never spoken to. He even tells her that if she does not, her heart will become “dry and brittle”. This is not a question of Amélie emotionally closing herself off to the world; Amélie has friends and clearly cares about other people. But the film implies that her dedication to others is misguided and that she should be making herself happy – specifically in a romantic relationship with a man. It also implies that sex should be the main foundation of this relationship. Over the course of the film, Amélie and Nino barely speak. Their first real opportunity for conversation comes when Nino arrives at Amélie’s apartment, but before he can even say “Hi”, Amélie starts kissing him, which leads directly to sex. When we next see them they are lying naked in bed together – still, as far as we can see, not having spoken a word to each other. The look on Amélie’s face, however, suggests that she is glad to have found both an adequate sexual partner and someone to fill the “boyfriend” role in her life – and that, apparently, is all that’s needed for a happy ending.

3.5 Stars; 3 Aces

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