Directed by Luc Besson
Written by Luc Besson
Jamel Debbouze as Andre
Rie Rasmussen as Angel-A
Gilbert Melki as Franck
Serge Riaboukine as Pedro
88 Minutes(Rated R for language and some sexual content. )
"Angel-A" is somewhat like the French and non-musical version of "Once," except maybe with a little bit more emotion and a sort of a cop-out ending. "Angel-A" leaves very little to interpret at the end, even though everything that happens before it is so wonderful and entertaining and enjoyable that you could forgive it. Somewhat like a French 2007 version of "It's a Wonderful Life," "Angel-A" also tells its story in black and white, capturing a special beauty as well as ugliness in the city of Paris-starting in the more seedy districts and than slowly getting grander and grander until towards the end there are images of the Eiffel Tower in all it's night time glory. I have not seen many films by director Luc Besson, but I can see the wide range of films that he tackles. I have always heard a lot about his big action films with guns and car chases, but with his imaginative, and ruined by America, animated film "Arthur and the Invisibles" and now this low-key romance film he clearly has talent with all genres.
"Angel-A" stars the very talented and very funny French actor Jamel Debbouze as Andre, a down on his luck, nice Parisian who owes a lot of big people a lot of cash. In debt to his ankles Andre only has a few hours left to come up with the money, and decides to throw himself off a bridge right before asking God for help. And then he sees another woman next to him who wants to end her life, and as she jumps in Andre jumps in after her. Andre saves her life, learns that her name is Angela, and that she is a stunning six foot something tall woman that is huge compared to his tiny height. Andre convinces her to not kill herself, and she decides to be in debt to him and do whatever he asks. She takes it upon herself to help him with his debt and takes him to a club where she takes numerous men into the bathroom stall and has sex with them for one thousand dollars a pop. Andre feels horrible about this and tries to get her to stop even though she refuses. And then he learns something about her-that she is an angel, brought to Earth to help him with his problems, and to help him like himself a little bit more.
There is not much of a story in "Angel-A" even though you could say its about the two of them trying to save Andre from his debtors. But this is really about Andre, poor Andre-a good man that just got involved with the wrong people. And for a while it is a love story, and a convincing one at that, with two people that are somewhat doomed from the start. Or are they? Both Jamel Debbouze and Rie Rasmussen (who is absolutely stunning) work so well together that it is impossible to resist the two of them, and after the film is over I was wishing there was more to watch them work together again. They have this somewhat love story happening between them, but also a kind of buddy comedy with their back and forth banter. Both seem to be involved in their conversations together, but at times both seem in their own worlds. And then there are moments where they are connected to the point that there is nobody else in the world. Besson's script works so well, and he writes dialogue with such immense talent. One scene that especially moved me to the point where I had minor tears in my eyes took place in a bathroom where Angela and Andre are looking at him in a mirror, and Angela tries to get him to tell himself that he loves him. The scene is the highlight of the film, with both actors topping each other with every line, that when Rie Rasmussen makes herself invisible you are thankful to finally be given a proper focal point. It's very well written too.
There is the comparison to "It's a Wonderful Life" even though there is not much background. This is quick and quiet film, paced like a gazelle, going through each scene quickly but allowing them all to be rich as well. We do not know much about Andre's past, except for what Angela assumes and except for a brief narration at the start. But we know that he is in debt, and that he clearly has had a past for him to get that much in debt. Even though this does not layer the character it makes it more likable, because aside from some jail time we do not know what led him down this path. The lack of detail does add richness and likeness to Andre, who could have been a horrible con man all his life. "Angel-A" is a great film until the final five minutes or so, where the film just kind of ends. It was not that I wasn't satisfied with how it turned out, but just the way it did. Besson seemed to not know how to end his script so he just stopped writing. Had the ending been tweaked a bit, "Angel-A" might have been on my favorites of the year, but instead it just became one of the funnest, enjoyable, and entertaining ones. I implore you to hunt this one, because it is a true winner, and an added shame that Luc Besson has stopped directing aside from two sequels to the Arthur films-and with the bomb of "Arthur and the Invisibles" in the United States, who knows if I will ever see them.