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Despite a modest box office response, the film received critical praise, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Film – Musical or Comedy.
Deschanel appeared in the independent drama Manic (2001), as the love interest of a troubled teen (Joseph Gordon-Levitt).
She is the younger daughter of cinematographer and director Caleb Deschanel and actress Mary Jo Deschanel (née Weir).
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was an arthouse success.
Her performance received wide critical acclaim, and Variety remarked: "Performances are all credible and naturalistic, but standing out from the rest is Deschanel's work, which evinces an impressively direct connection to her character's emotions.
Her paternal grandfather was French, from Oullins, Rhône and her paternal grandmother came from a Quaker family; she also has Swiss, Dutch, English, Irish, and other French ancestry.... I'm really happy now that I had the experience, but at the time I was just so miserable to have to leave my friends in Los Angeles and go to places where they didn't have any food I liked or things I was used to.
Deschanel had a guest appearance on the television series Veronica's Closet in 1998 and made her film debut in Lawrence Kasdan's comedy Mumford (1999), revolving around the neurotic residents in a small town and co-starring Hope Davis, Jason Lee, Alfre Woodard and Mary Mc Donnell.