Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine, Akim Chir. Rated R.
all angels! André (Jamel Debbouze, best known to
American audiences for his bit role in Amélie)
is a luckless loser who is drowning in a sea of gambling debts. Worse
yet, his creditors have lost patience, giving him a few scant hours in which to
make good… or else. Stuck in Paris – though claiming, rather dubiously, to own
a posh apartment in New York – André appeals to the American embassy, then to
the Parisian police. When they turn him away, there is only one option left:
Naturally, André messes that up, too. Standing atop a
picturesque (and curiously low) bridge, he prepares for the end, only to notice
a sexy, scantily clad blonde standing just a few feet away. She jumps. He
follows, and drags her to shore. It is then that he meets Angela (Rie
Rasmussen), the mysterious beauty who thanks him with a pledge of eternal
devotion. Before long, Angela has solved his debt problem (don’t ask how), and
turns her attention to André’s pathetically low self-esteem.
It doesn’t take a genius
to realize that there’s something otherworldly about Angela, and not just because she can levitate coffee
cups and produce cigarettes out of thin air. She is a divine creature on a
mission, determined to teach André a few simple lessons. Respect yourself. Be honest.
And, above all, don’t gamble on horses named after backstabbing Roman senators.
Besson’s Angel-A is a redemption fantasy
that lacks the bite of his best work but
remains playfully endearing, perhaps never more so than during a climax that finds André and
Angela once again tumbling into the Seine, still desperate but strangely blissful. It stumbles at times, particularly
during that uncomfortable sequence in which Angela raises the cash to save
André from his creditors. (Again, don’t ask.) But thanks to Thierry
Arbogast’s gorgeous, black-and-white cinematography, which bathes Paris in
resplendent light, and an unabashedly heartwarming story that pays homage to It’s
a Wonderful Life and Wim Wenders’ Wings
of Desire, it can be forgiven such missteps.