Amélie (also known as Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain; French pronunciation: [lə fabylø destɛ̃ d‿ameli pulɛ̃]; English: The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain) is a French 2001 romantic comedy film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Written by Jeunet with Guillaume Laurant, the film is a whimsical depiction of contemporary Parisian life, set in Montmartre. It tells the story of a shy waitress, played by Audrey Tautou, who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better while struggling with her own isolation. The film also features an ensemble cast of supporting roles, including Mathieu Kassovitz, Rufus, Lorella Cravotta, Serge Merlin, Jamel Debbouze, Claire Maurier, Clotilde Mollet, Isabelle Nanty, Dominique Pinon, Artus de Penguern, Yolande Moreau, Urbain Cancelier, and Maurice Bénichou.
The film was theatrically released in France on 25 April 2001 by UGC-Fox Distribution and in Germany on 16 August 2001 by Prokino Filmverleih. The film received critical acclaim, with praise for Tautou's performance, the cinematography, production design, and writing. Amélie won Best Film at the European Film Awards; it also won four César Awards, including Best Film and Best Director). It won two British Academy Film Awards, including Best Original Screenplay, and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Original Screenplay. The film was a commercial success, grossing $174.2 million worldwide against a budget of $10 million. Taking in over $33 million in a limited theatrical release, it is to date the highest-grossing French-language film released in the United States, and one of the biggest international successes for a French film.
Amélie Poulain is born in June 1974 and brought up by eccentric parents who – incorrectly believing that she has a heart defect – decide to home-school her. To cope with her loneliness, Amélie develops an active imagination and a mischievous personality. When Amélie is six, her mother, Amandine, is killed when a suicidal Canadian tourist jumps from the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris and lands on her. As a result, her father Raphaël withdraws more and more from society. Amélie leaves home at the age of 18 and becomes a waitress at the Café des 2 Moulins in Montmartre, which is staffed and frequented by a collection of eccentrics. She is single and lets her imagination roam freely, finding contentment in simple pleasures like dipping her hand into grain sacks and cracking crème brûlée with a spoon.
On 31 August 1997, startled by the news of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, Amélie drops a plastic perfume-stopper, which dislodges a wall tile and accidentally reveals an old metal box of childhood memorabilia hidden by a boy who lived in her apartment decades earlier. Amélie resolves to track down the boy and return the box to him. She promises herself that if it makes him happy, she will devote her life to bringing happiness to others.
After asking the apartment's concierge and several old tenants about the boy's identity, Amélie meets her reclusive neighbour, Raymond Dufayel, an artist with brittle bone disease who repaints Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party every year. He recalls the boy's name as "Bretodeau". Amélie quickly finds the man, Dominique Bretodeau, and surreptitiously gives him the box. Moved to tears by the discovery and the memories it holds, Bretodeau resolves to reconcile with his estranged daughter and the grandson he has never met. Amélie happily embarks on her new mission.
Amélie secretly executes complex schemes that affect the lives of those around her. She escorts a blind man to the Métro station, giving him a rich description of the street scenes he passes. She persuades her father to follow his dream of touring the world by stealing his garden gnome and having a flight attendant friend airmail pictures of it posing with landmarks from all over the world. She starts a romance between her hypochondriacal co-worker Georgette and Joseph, one of the customers in the bar. She convinces Madeleine Wallace, the concierge of her block of flats, that the husband who abandoned her had sent her a final conciliatory love letter just before his accidental death years before. She gaslights Collignon, the nasty greengrocer. Mentally exhausted, Collignon no longer abuses his meek but good-natured assistant Lucien. A delighted Lucien takes charge at the grocery stand.
Mr. Dufayel, having observed Amélie, begins a conversation with her about his painting. Although he has copied the same painting 20 times, he has never quite captured the look of the girl drinking a glass of water. They discuss the meaning of this character, and over several conversations, Amélie begins projecting her loneliness onto the image. Dufayel recognizes this and uses the girl in the painting to push Amélie to examine her attraction to a quirky young man, Nino Quincampoix, who collects the discarded photographs of strangers from passport photo booths. When Amélie bumps into Nino a second time, she realizes she is falling in love with him. He accidentally drops a photo album in the street. Amélie retrieves it.
Amélie plays a cat-and-mouse game with Nino around Paris before returning his treasured album anonymously. After arranging a meeting at the 2 Moulins, Amélie panics and tries to deny her identity. Her co-worker, Gina, concerned for Amélie's well-being, screens Nino for her; Joseph's comment about this misleads Amélie to believe she has lost Nino to Gina. It takes Dufayel's insight to give her the courage to pursue Nino, resulting in a romantic night together and the beginning of a relationship. The film ends as Amélie experiences a moment of happiness she has found for herself.
In his DVD commentary, Jeunet explains that he originally wrote the role of Amélie for the English actress Emily Watson. In that first draft, Amélie's father was an Englishman living in London. However, Watson's French was not strong, and when she became unavailable to shoot the film, owing to a conflict with the filming of Gosford Park, Jeunet rewrote the screenplay for a French actress. Audrey Tautou was the first actress he auditioned having seen her on the poster for the 1999 film Venus Beauty Institute.
The filmmakers made use of computer-generated imagery (including computer animation), and a digital intermediate. The studio scenes were filmed in the Coloneum Studio in Cologne (Germany). The film shares many of the themes in its plot with the second half of the 1994 film Chungking Express.
The film was released in France, Belgium, and French-speaking western Switzerland in April 2001, with subsequent screenings at various film festivals followed by releases around the world. It received limited releases in North America, the United Kingdom, and Australasia later in 2001.
Cannes Film Festival selector Gilles Jacob described Amélie as "uninteresting", and therefore it was not screened at the festival, although the version he viewed was an early cut without music. The absence of Amélie at the festival caused something of a controversy because of the warm welcome by the French media and audience in contrast with the reaction of the selector. David Martin-Jones, in an article in Senses of Cinema, stated that the film "[wears] its national [French] identity on its sleeve" and that this attracted both audiences of mainstream movies and those of arthouse ones.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 89% approval rating based on 184 reviews, with an average rating of 8.09/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The feel-good Amélie is a lively, fanciful charmer, showcasing Audrey Tautou as its delightful heroine." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 69 out of 100 based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Alan Morrison from Empire Online gave Amélie five stars and called it "one of the year's best, with crossover potential along the lines of Cyrano De Bergerac and Il Postino. Given its quirky heart, it might well surpass them all". Paul Tatara of CNN praised Amélie's playful nature. In his review, he wrote, "Its whimsical, free-ranging nature is often enchanting; the first hour, in particular, is brimming with amiable, sardonic laughs".
The film was attacked by critic Serge Kaganski of Les Inrockuptibles for an unrealistic and picturesque vision of a bygone French society with few ethnic minorities. Jeunet dismissed the criticism by pointing out that the photo collection contains pictures of people from numerous ethnic backgrounds, and that Jamel Debbouze, who plays Lucien, is of Moroccan descent.
The film opened on 432 screens in France and grossed 43.2 million French Franc ($6.2 million) in its opening week, placing it at number one. It stayed in the top 10 for 22 weeks. It was the highest-grossing film in France for the year with a gross of $41 million.
The film was selected by The New York Times as one of "The Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made". The film placed No. 2 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema". Paste magazine ranked it second on its list of the 50 Best Movies of the Decade (2000–2009). In August 2016, BBC Magazine conducted a poll on the 21st century's 100 greatest films so far, with Amélie ranking at number 87.
Entertainment Weekly named the film poster one of the best on its list of the top 25 film posters in the past 25 years. It also named Amélie setting up a wild goose chase for her beloved Nino all through Paris as No. 9 on its list of top 25 Romantic Gestures. In 2010, an online public poll by the American Cinematographer – the house journal of the American Society of Cinematographers – named Amélie the best shot film of the decade.
On 23 August 2013, composer Dan Messe, one of the founders and members of the band Hem, confirmed speculation that he would be writing the score for a musical adaptation of Amélie, collaborating with Craig Lucas and Nathan Tysen. Messe also confirmed he would be composing all original music for the show and not using the Yann Tiersen score. The musical adaptation premiered at the Berkeley Repertory Theater in August 2015. It opened on Broadway in March 2017 and closed in May 2017. The production started its pre-Broadway engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles in December 2016, with Phillipa Soo in the title role.
The film has no overall worldwide distributor, but Blu-ray Discs have been released in Canada and Australia. The first release occurred in Canada in September 2008 by TVA Films. This version did not contain any English subtitles and received criticisms regarding picture quality. In November 2009, an Australian release occurred. This time the version contained English subtitles and features no region coding. Momentum Pictures released a Blu-ray in the UK on 17 October 2011. The film is also available in HD on iTunes and other digital download services.
For the 2007 television show Pushing Daisies, a "quirky fairy tale", American Broadcasting Company (ABC) sought an Amélie feel, with the same chords of "whimsy and spirit and magic". Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller said Amélie is his favorite film. "All the things I love are represented in that movie", he said. "It's a movie that will make me cry based on kindness as opposed to sadness". The New York Times' review of Pushing Daisies reported "the Amélie influence on Pushing Daisies is everywhere".
A species of frog was named Cochranella amelie. The scientist who named it said: "This new species of glass frog is for Amélie, protagonist of the extraordinary movie Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain; a film where little details play an important role in the achievement of joie de vivre; like the important role that glass frogs and all amphibians and reptiles play in the health of our planet". The species was described in the scientific journal Zootaxa in an article entitled "An enigmatic new species of Glassfrog (Amphibia: Anura: Centrolenidae) from the Amazonian Andean slopes of Ecuador".