Director Agnes Jaoui makes sweet ‘Rain’ 

Sometimes comedies that keep you steadily, seriously smiling are more satisfying than comedies that prompt guffaws. That’s surely the case with “Let It Rain,” French filmmaker Agnes Jaoui’s subtle, sophisticated, richly observant human- and Mother Nature farce.

Jaoui has now made three features as a director-writer-actor (including “The Taste of Others” and “Look at Me”) with writer-actor Jean-Pierre Bacri, and all winners.

Like her past comedies, the latest is a blend of pith and meringue that depicts how people — driven by a desire to feel morally, intellectually, socially or culturally superior — perceive other people slightingly.

Jaoui plays Agathe, a self-absorbed Parisian feminist writer turned politician who arrives in the southern France to campaign for office and visit her sister, Florence (Pascale Arbillot).

She agrees to be the subject of a documentary co-directed by hotel clerk and aspiring filmmaker Karim (Jamel Debbouze) and Karim’s former mentor, Michel (played by Bacri).

The documentary shoot proves a fiasco due to Karim’s inexperience,   Michel’s ineptness (he clearly inflated his résumé) and rainy weather. At one point, Michel’s bumbling causes Agathe to miss an important rally.

Additional mini dramas involve resentment and romantic dilemmas.

Unhappily married Florence is having an affair with Michel and is jealous of her more dynamic sister. Michel is annoyed at his ex-wife because she has custody of their son.

Agathe’s boyfriend, Antoine (Frederic Pierrot), dislikes being a second fiddle in her life.

Karim, the son of the family’s Algerian housekeeper, remains angry at Agathe about a racial insult he experienced from one of her social connections. A married man, he also has been flirting with co-worker Aurelie (Florence Loiret-Caille).

As in the films of Eric Rohmer, nothing shattering happens, and characters progress only from A to B. But in that modest stretch, they experience meaningful realizations, make significant decisions, issue long-due apologies and grow a smidgen wiser and happier. Jaoui tells a consistently amusing and often-poignant tale about arrogance, airs, ambition and life’s precipitations.

Nugget moments include a silly-looking night-reading forehead light and Agathe’s surprise at learning of Karim’s cinematic aspirations (snobbishly, she regarded him as hotel-clerk material).

Agathe has other admirable aspects, including helping housekeeper Mimouna (Mimouna Hadji) get out of a bad marriage.

Characters continue to reveal additional shades as the story progresses. Bacri, whose Michel is both funny and sad as he tries to mask his inadequacies by feigning journalistic distinction, is particularly impressive.

 

MOVIE REVIEW

Let It Rain

Three stars

Starring Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jamel Debbouze, Pascale Arbillot

Written by Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri

Directed by Agnes Jaoui

Not rated

Running time 1 hour 39 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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