The presence of Femme Fatale‘s diamond-clad sexpot Rie Rasmussen in Angel-A confirms that, after featuring the ultra-slim Kate Nauta in his exec-produced Transporter II, director Luc Besson prefers his women tall, blond, and anorexic. Unfortunately his first behind-the-camera outing since 1999’s The Messenger is as skeletal as his model-turned-leading lady, offering up a modern riff on It’s a Wonderful Life in which the filmmaker’s trademark hyper-spasmodic action is set aside in favor of endless, static meet-cute talkativeness. Up to his neck in debt and consequently ready to jump off a bridge, incompetent small-time crook André (Jamel Debbouze) has his suicide plunge into the Seine interrupted by the appearance of Rasmussen’s Angela, who literally drops into his life and immediately becomes his devoted sidekick. Part Victoria’s Secret catwalk-strutter, part Dr. Phil, the towering Angela bombards her short, compulsively lying beau with self-help blather about taking time to breathe the air, smell the roses, ditch his self-destructive tendencies, and love himself—all advice that makes clear (if her name and the film’s title already hadn’t) her divine origins. Their constant chatter on city bridges is occasionally interrupted by Angela intimidating André‘s creditors and (supposedly) prostituting herself to help him settle his debts, but as the chemistry between the two is nil and their banter is neither engaging nor amusing, all that remains attractive about Angel-A is Thierry Arbogast’s sumptuously monochromatic cinematography of a seemingly abandoned Paris. With his silvery black-and-white visuals casting foreground and background images in sharp relief, Arbogast’s work lends the tale a whimsical storybook-noir atmosphere that’s part Wings of Desire, part Elevator to the Gallows. Besson’s script, on the other hand, negates any potential emotional engagement by making every theme, every idea, every one of its characters’ thoughts explicit via increasingly tedious, faux-charming bickering. A climactic vision of Angela attempting to return home has a hint of the breathtaking pop majesty found in the finest moments of Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, and helps to redeem some of the preceding pap. More often than not, though, this long-winded fable functions as a squishy, supernatural serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul.
- Luc Besson
- Luc Besson
- Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine
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