Angel-A (2005)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Heavenly Comedy  |   Release Date - May 25, 2007 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - R
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With its black-and-white aesthetic, its picturesque Parisian setting, and a lead actress who's better known as a supermodel, Angel-A might logically have been an abstract viewing experience with all the style and depth of a fashion magazine. Instead, Luc Besson's film is a straightforward and fairly conventional update of It's a Wonderful Life. Angela (Rie Rasmussen) -- a preternaturally beautiful 5'10" blonde, shot to appear seven feet tall -- doesn't show André (Jamel Debbouze) how the world would be different if he jumped off that bridge, as Clarence did with George Bailey. But they do meet during a perilous moment atop a bridge, and do have a profound influence on each other over the course of a funny and poignant 90 minutes. The talkative Debbouze, shot to look like a shrimp, makes the perfect hard-luck loser. He's a rascally little scamp who's always making bad decisions that involve gangsters, but he's also effortlessly likable, showing good emotional range in the moments that call for it. And Rasmussen does more than just mini-skirted strutting (though she does that also, quite effectively). She's come pretty far, acting-wise, from her role as eye candy in Femme Fatale, where she wore that gold dress made of interlocking snakes. This visually incongruous pair -- with Angela sometimes towering over André, sometimes eclipsing him by just a few inches -- makes its way through a series of whimsical set pieces, each designed to teach him a lesson and harness his instincts toward goodness. Angel-A is best when Besson uses his talents to underscore the punchy physicality of these moments, some of which involve fantastical cutaways. The film loses some verve during its more literal passages, when the supernatural themes present themselves unambiguously, without a second possible interpretation. Fortunately, this stylish fairy tale has verve -- and heart -- to spare.