This review was written for the festival screening of "Angel-A."
PARK CITY -- Treading awkwardly on the wings of such guardian angel classics as "It's A Wonderful Life" and "Here Comes Mr. Jordan," Luc Besson's foray into oddball romance territory is a visually striking but aurally vapid shrug-inducer.
"Angel-A" finds Besson and cinematographer Thierry Arbogast setting out to do for Paris what Woody Allen and his cinematographer Gordon Willis did for Manhattan, and they succeed in capturing the city in sunlight-bathed, lustrous blacks and whites reminiscent of photos from vintage '50s and '60s magazine layouts.
But this would-be Paris match-made-in-heaven proves to be less than idyllic thanks to the banal dialogue and self-consciously idiosyncratic performances.
Screened in the out-of-competition Sundance Spectrum section, the instantly forgettable film will be released domestically through Sony Pictures Classics.
Meet Andre (Jamel Debbouze), a pipsqueak of a conman who's up to his eyeballs in debt and is running out of places to hide from his very unhappy creditors.
With nowhere else to turn, he finds himself peering down into the abyss -- in the case, the icy Seine -- from the edge of a bridge. He soon realizes he's not alone, and taking the plunge ahead of him is the decidedly long and leggy Angela (Rie Rasmussen).
It turns out the jumper is actually an angel sent from above to help Andre in the self-worth department, but at some point in their ensuing wacky exploits, she commits the cardinal angel no-no of actually falling for her mortal assignment.
While Rasmussen and Debbouze definitely make for an odd couple, Besson's script has them saying and doing things that are constantly hitting comedic sour notes, broadly missing the element of quirky charm necessary for them to click with an audience. As a result, the dreaded ennui begins creeping in early on in the proceedings, and despite the considerable assist of those gossamer monochromatic visuals, "Angel-A" (get it?) never takes flight.
Sony Pictures Classics
Director-screenwriter: Luc Besson; Director of photography: Thierry Arbogast; Production designer: Jacques Bufnoir; Editor: Frederic Thoraval; Costume designer: Martine Rapin; Music: Anja Garbarek.
Andre: Jamel Debbouze
Angela: Rie Rasmussen
Franck: Gilbert Melki
Pedro: Serge Riaboukine
Running time -- 91 minutes
No MPAA rating