You can't help feeling sorry for that sweet little pixie from Montmartre. When Amélie hit the screens 12 months ago, it catapulted 24-year-old Audrey Tautou from French nobody to comedy starlet somebody. With a capital S. Suddenly she was the darling of millions; everyone cooed at her every smile; the world was her showbiz oyster. Apart from one thing: Tatou was Amélie, just as Anthony Perkins was Norman Bates, meaning her chances of being accepted in another role were somewhere below zilch.
But consider He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, a movie comprising crisp Parisian locations, stylish camera angles and chocolate box visuals. Oh, and a romantic story about a talented painter Angélique (Tautou) and her cardiologist boyfriend (Samuel Le Bihan). Amélie 2, oui?
Well, no, because then something strange happens which turns Angélique from madly in love to just plain mad. Sweety-pie pixie to raging psycho in two easy stages. In fact, by the time the end credits roll, Tautou's cute and cuddly do-gooding image has gone floating down the Seine without a paddle. And if Amélie was a sweet, rose-tinted fairy tale, He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not soon turns into a nightmarish romantic thriller. To say any more would be to do the movie a disservice.
All of which probably makes this sound like one of the most intriguing films of the year. In reality, though, debut director Laetitia Colombani's attempt to pull the wool over our eyes, Sixth Sense-style, is too painstakingly plodding for its own good. Watching Tautou press the self-destruct button on the character that made her so famous is fascinating, but it's never anything more than an entrée for the rest of the film, and Colombani's smoke-and-mirrors script just can't come up with the goods. The result is a would-be thriller that thrashes around in its own trickiness, grabbing our attention only to squirm under our gaze.
Audrey Tatou impresses and surprises, but this is essentially a first-rate idea that suffers from fumbled execution. A Gallic curio that'll intrigue and infuriate in equal measure.