By Joe Lozito
French actress Audrey Tautou shares more than just first names with a famous Hepburn. She has the same natural beauty and infectious smile that carried "Roman Holiday" and "Breakfast at Tiffany's" among others. Indeed, as the title character in Jean-Pierre Jeunet's AmÃ©lie
, Ms. Tautou channels some of Holly Golightly's flighty ways, albeit on an even more modest budget.
The film has a wonderful sense of humor. The opening ten minutes are a whirlwind as characters are paraded before the screen, their likes and dislikes cataloged like Playboy centerfolds. This technique - which could has grown tiresome, but leaves you wanting more - works so well because the script by Mr. Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant finds a wealth of material in life's everyday circumstances. The film itself thrives on everything that makes life interesting. Each character has a backstory to tell, whether you want to hear it or not.
The film's plot unfolds very naturally. We learn about the characters in AmÃ©lie's life and as she makes it her mission to step in to give some joy to their lives, remaining in the shadows like a kind of karmic superhero, we understand the ramifications of her actions no matter how miniscule.
"AmÃ©lie" takes place in a Paris of filmdom. Mr. Jeunet (Delicatessen, Alien: Resurrection) films every scene as if it's a reference to a famous painting. But it is Ms. Tautou's presence that carries the film. She has a star quality about her. As her impossibly wide eyes stare at the world with awe, wonder or sadness, we, for a short time, see the world through those eyes. Her gift to us is that, at least for 2 hours, the world looks pretty good.