Film review: He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not ...

Published: Friday, May 30 2003 7:55 a.m. MDT

It's a safe bet to say "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not . . ." is as far from "Amelie" as anything any of us could have expected from French actress Audrey Tautou.

After all, thanks to that 2001 breakthrough, Tautou has pretty much been crowned the Second Coming of Audrey Hepburn. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Tautou seems bound and determined to do something completely different from whatever expectations come with that title.

In the case of "He Loves Me," it means following up the sweetly charming fantasy "Amelie" with an unsettling and often creepy little thriller, which at first appears to be fairly straightforward but then gets much craftier and considerably more interesting.

The changing story perspectives and tones here don't always work. But you have to appreciate the fact that the film capitalizes on Tautou's appeal, often using that alone to keep us off balance, so that what happens seems even more shocking than it already is.

Tautou stars as Angelique, an art student who's won a scholarship. Things are going well in her professional life and in her personal life, as she's fallen in love with a doctor, Loic (Samuel Le Bihan). Loic is married, but Angelique is convinced he's planning to divorce his wife — until she discovers that Loic's wife is pregnant. This causes Angelique to be more than just a little jealous, as she becomes obsessed with breaking up their marriage.

At this point, the film changes dramatically. Not to give too much away, but the first half shows things from one perspective and the second half shows things from a completely different perspective.

It's a tricky concept, but co-screenwriter/director Laetitia Colombani does an effective job of turning things on their ear. But the smartest move was to cast Tautou in the central role. Though she has to fight against our perceptions, Tautou is thoroughly convincing and remains somewhat sympathetic, which is at least a little troubling.

Le Bihan, last seen by U.S. audiences in "The Brotherhood of the Wolf," plays a character who is a bit of an enigma, which is exactly right for the role.

"He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not . . ." is not rated but would probably receive an R for occasional use of strong, sex-related profanity, a couple of scenes of violence (vehicular, as well as a bludgeoning), brief gore and brief drug content (use of tranquilizers and anti-psychotic medications). Running time: 92 minutes.


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