Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain
("The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain
" — released as Amélie
in English) is a 2001 French film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet
, starring Audrey Tautou
and Mathieu Kassovitz
The plot follows Amélie, a lonely young Parisian waitress with simple pleasures, as she decides to become a sort of guardian angel to those around her: reuniting a stranger with a box of his childhood treasures, gently prompting her retired father to follow his dreams of world travel, matchmaking café regulars, playing practical jokes on a greengrocer who's being cruel to his assistant, writing love letters to a woman whose husband left her, etc. During her adventures, she meets an odd young man called Nino, who we quickly realize is her soulmate — but she is too shy to make direct contact. She must find the courage to fix her own life as she's been fixing those of others.
This film provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Disorder: Lucien. He's referred to as "slow", and seems to have a mild mental handicap.
- Anywhere but Their Lips: Played with during the final kissing scene.
- Aside Glance: Plenty from Amélie.
- Asshole Victim: The grocer. Ho boy, the grocer.
- Blithe Spirit: Amélie's mission after finding the box of trinkets is to affect the lives of those around her in a positive way.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: In the closing seconds, plus frequent asides.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Amélie's games with Nino, ostensibly designed to whet his interest in her, are in fact because she's painfully shy and terrified of approaching him. The two times she does actually set up an honest meeting to approach him, she freezes up and lets the moment slip past.
- Cat Scare: Inverted. When Amélie daydreams about Nino coming in through her beaded doorway and the beads rustle, she turns around and rather than relieved to see a cat, is understandably disappointed to find her cat.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Amélie's air stewardess friend Philomène, who is introduced just as one of the other regulars of The Two Windmills. She's the one who's been taking the pictures of the gnome in different parts of the world. She jokingly tells Amélie she got the name "Snow White" for it.
- Philomène's cat applies is a minor example, too. See above for Cat Scare.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Amélie, most prominently, and most of the movie's characters are either slightly bonkers or completely nuts.
- Collector of the Strange: Nino. His album of ID photos, among others.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Amélie pays back cruelty with cruelty throughout her life. When she is a child, a neighbor fools her into thinking that her camera causes accidents, so as punishment she sits on his roof, listening to the football game on the radio and unplugging his TV connection at vital moments. As an adult, she plays pranks on the grocer to torment him for his mean-spirited treatment of his assistant.
- Cool Old Guy: Raymond Dufayel, the shut-in in Amélie's building.
- One of the most awesome things ever about Mr. Dufayel is that he's able to be completely spot-on about everything that's going on in Amélie's head and even mentions uncomfortable truths about her and her life. Throughout the movie, he almost becomes a guru of sorts for her.
- Crazy Jealous Guy: Joseph, who possessively smothers any woman he is interested in. This causes him to stalk Gina, and sabotage his potential relationship with Georgette.
- Cult Soundtrack: The soundtrack, composed by Yann Tiersen, received rave reviews and even went platinum in Canada. Its songs are still used as atmospheric music in a wide range of media.
- Digital Bikini: When the movie was shown on the satellite TV channel Ovation TV, a bikini was photoshopped on the topless dancer Nino asks to cover for him at work.
- Disabled Character, Disabled Actor: Lucien has one arm. Jamel Debbouze, who plays him, has a withered right hand which he consistently keeps hidden in a pocket. It's conceivable that, while the character of Lucien being "slow" was always the main excuse given by the grocer for being such a giant Jerk Ass to him, the missing arm was more of a way to explain Jamel's recognizable posture in-universe that they decided to throw in.
- The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: The French title, at least.
- For Happiness: Amélie's acts of kindness to make those around her happy.
- Forged Message: One of Amélie's neighbors is bitter that her husband left her for another woman, then died in a plane crash. So Amélie creates a fake letter to convince the neighbor that the husband wanted to reconcile with her, had left his mistress, and was on his way home when the plane crashed.
- Friendless Background: Both Amélie and Nino. Amélie was homeschooled, while Nino was bullied by the other children.
- Gaslighting: Amélie sneaks into her grocer's apartment and subtly messes with his stuff, changing the size of his shoes, the numbers on his speed dial, etc... to punish him for mocking his ambiguously-handicapped and one-armed employee.
- Gay Paree: But of course, and deliberately more so than in real life.
- Glass Slipper: Amélie has a Love at First Sight moment when bumping into Nino at a Parisian subway station. He doesn't notice her at all and quickly rides off with his scooter. However, a photo album falls off when he takes a sharp corner and Amélie picks it up. It helps her to get in contact with Nino, who, after noticing his loss, leaves stickers around the station with his phone number.
- Hollywood Driving: A pet peeve of Amélie when watching movies in cinema.
- Homeschooled Kids: Amélie, since her father believed she had a heart condition.
- I Have This Friend: Oddly, done by the advice-giver. Raymond notes that Amélie is too shy to talk about herself. He gently coaxes her into it by pretending to ask for motives behind a figure in his painting, and deliberately suggesting ones similar to what he's seen of her.
- Imagine Spot: Used a lot, like when Amélie pictures herself as Zorro, or when Nino is late and her extended train of thought leads her to believe that he'd been captured and taken hostage by the Afghan Mujahideen, whom he joins and is now living in Afghanistan raising goats.
- Immodest Orgasm / Modest Orgasm: When Amélie wonders "how many couples are having orgasms right now?"
- Karmic Trickster: The role Amélie takes in dealing with the grocer's treatment of Lucien.
- Like You Were Dying: Inverted; it's Dufayel, old and sick, who prods young and vibrant Amélie into living her life.
- Love Letter Lunacy: Taken Up to Eleven by Amélie, who just can't get past her worry of being rejected by Nino, so she mixes in anonymous phone calls and even a ransom of his photo album.
- Magic Realism: Everywhere, from the talking photographs to Amélie watching an old-style newsreel on her own life (arguably a Shout-Out to Citizen Kane and of course Mother Teresa and Florence Nightingale)...
- Metaphorgotten: The metaphorical comparison of the unfinished girl in the painting to Amélie quickly disintegrates when she gets fed up with Raymond's prying.
- On a meta level, the painting also serves to illustrate a need to move on, resulting in Dufayel finally painting other pictures, after his scene with Lucien reveals how unhealthy his Renoir fixation is getting.
- Modesty Bedsheet: It was more like a Modesty Human Shield. Both scenes where Amélie was naked, she had a person over her.
- Narrator: The narrator will tell you about the plot, the characters, and even the character's likes and dislikes. These are given nods and shout outs almost every time the character in question appears on-screen. A good example of this is Bretodeau, whom the narrator tells us likes snitching the chicken oysters while fixing dinner, and is later shown at his daughter's house fixing dinner for them and her son, giving the boy the oysters.
- Narrative Filigree: The Movie. Amélie frequently delves into irrelevant events, such as marking Amélie's conception occurring at the exact time that a fly is crushed, that wine glasses "dance" on a moving tablecloth unseen, and that an elderly gentleman erases his deceased friend from his notebook of phone numbers. Additionally, almost every named character (or animal in the case of Philomène's cat) is noted as liking or disliking something in order to give detail to the world. The minor subplot about the death of Princess Diana also qualifies.
- Not Listening to Me, Are You?: Amélie tells her dad that she's had "two heart attacks, an abortion, did crack... while I was pregnant" and other than that, she's fine. These things didn't really happen; she's just checking if he's paying attention. Which he's not.
- Overly Long Gag: Amélie's imagined second reason as to why Nino is late.
- Parental Neglect: A non-malicious variation. Amélie's father was so distant that, when he gave her occasional check-ups, the rare contact with her father would make her heart race; since he believed this was a result of a heart condition, he had her home-schooled by her neurotic mother, forcing Amélie to hide in her imagination.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Amélie, especially on the poster.
- Recycled Soundtrack: A good deal of the soundtrack is taken from Yann Tiersen's other albums.
- Right Now Montage: "How many couples are having an orgasm right now?"
- Right Through the Wall: Georgette and Joseph in the café bathroom, making all the cups and crockery rattle. Amélie covers up the sound of The Immodest Orgasm by running the espresso machine.
- Scenery Porn
- Sex Montage: In one scene, Amélie amuses herself by wondering "how many couples are having orgasms right now?" She correctly guesses "Fifteen!" after a montage of every single one.
- Shipper on Deck: Amélie for Georgette and Joseph. It goes poorly.
- Sugar Bowl: Played straight with the setting, but averted with the people.
- Paris is shown to be a beautiful, whimsical, and most of all, extremely clean place. While Paris is, indeed, a lively and wonderful city, it's also quite shabby in many places. The production meticulously cleaned up their shooting locations to make it look more colorful and idealized. We see very little of the poverty and gang graffiti that pervades the city. They also strictly avoided very modern locations to give Paris a more quaint and old-fashioned feel.
- In spite of the film's overall sweet tone, it does have an undercurrent of nastiness. Many people that Amélie meets are total jerks, and she plays cruel tricks on them. Also, few characters get a happy ending. Many of the people that Amélie helps are still stuck with their old problems at the end of the film, and the most she can do is give them a brief moment of pleasure. Also, none of the jerks she punishes are shown to change their ways.
- That Cloud Looks Like: Exaggerated for the sake of magic realism.
- Twice Shy: Amélie and Nino: both very shy and introverted people (and also more than a little quirky) which makes them perfect for each other, but alas, they Cannot Spit It Out (until the very end of the movie, that is.)
- Twitchy Eye: Amélie's mother, cited as the sign of a nervous person.
- Undignified Death: Amélie's mother is leaving Notre-Dame de Paris, having just prayed for the conception of a second child, when a Quebecois tourist committing suicide and lands on her.