A Very Long Engagement

Rated R 2004

The new film by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) will have its fans. For one thing, there's no denying its beauty, an onslaught of gorgeous tableaux, painstakingly arranged and shot through filters to exclude colors that don't suit. There's Audrey Tautou, with her Hepburn mixture of sweetness and ferocity, hobbling about Paris on a polio-stiffened leg. There's the Jeunet talent for capturing an entire backstory in a quirky detail. And there is, finally, the epic story of a young woman who refuses to relinquish hope that her lover, missing in The Great War, still lives. But it's not a great movie. It wants to be great; it courses through countless lives and scenes to posit a comprehensive picture of postwar France, funneling it all through the weeping eyes of a precious heroine and her precious devotion to her childhood love. But it's too much, and too familiar, to succeed. Hollywood has given Jeunet its blessing, and Jeunet has made a film worthy of Hollywood. Which, alas, is not saying much.

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