Lonely people need friends, too. Little Amélie Poulain (Audrey Tautou) grew up isolated. Dad was emotionally distant, and mom died in a suicide. She wasn’t depressed, mind you, but someone jumped off Notre Dame and she was in the way. Amélie developed a rich fantasy life, a trait that serves her well as a waitress in romantic Montmarte. Ah, Montmarte! The idyllic Parisian suburb populated with interesting but never scary citizens, quaint spacious apartments with working plumbing, and a drop-dead view of the City of Lights. She discovers a small box of children’s toys in the wall of her bathroom, and takes it upon herself to return them to the owner. A bit shy, she arranges for him to find them in a phone booth, and it changes his life. Now she has a quest — straighten out people’s vaguely screwed up lives, but in as complicated a manner possible. Opportunities are endless — she wrecks vengeance on the grocer Collignon (Urbain Cancelier) for abusing his help, gets the two weird people at work, Georgette and Joseph (Isabelle Nanty and Dominique Pinon), dating so they leave everyone else alone, and fakes a letter convincing landlady (Yolanda Moreau) that the husband that left her in 1960 really loved her. Her biggest crusade — land the compulsive Nino Quincampoix (Matheiu Kassovitz). He works at the porno shop repricing dildos and collects discarded pictures from train station photo kiosks. Other than that, he’s a neat guy. Well, they keep almost missing on another, but since we have the dread words “romantic comedy” on the poster, you know she’s not bedding down with Pinon. Roll the credits.
It’s fluffy, the story’s bit of a stretch, but it has decent special effects for a romance. Amélie carries a consistent thread of humor and good feeling on its travelogue of the Parisians sights. The plots she concocts are beyond the pale in complexity — how could you even get most city dwellers to answer a pay phone, or get just the right street mime to direct a guy to the right public binoculars? What makes the story flow are the excellent supporting characters who provide a canvas for Jeunet’s eccentric humor. Joseph is just creepy enough you’d let him fix your car, but not date your daughter. Neighbor Dufayel (Serge Merlin) paints the same picture over and over, attempting to capture the look of a minor character. Collignon is the sort of blowhard who deserves to have his slippers shrunk. Amélie’s machinations are just one more layer of surrealistic characterization. Humor pushes you into suspension of disbelief, and the girl gets the guy. Although, I’m sure they be at each other’s throats before long over one of Nino’s strange hobbies.