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Let It Rain

Despite an initial forecast of smart laughs and witty tete-a-tetes, the French dramedy "Let It Rain" winds up being a partly cloudy affair that lacks the cohesiveness of Agnes Jaoui’s two previous features, "The Taste of Others" and "Look at Me."

With:
With: Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jamel Debbouze, Pascale Arbillot, Guillaume de Tonquedec, Frederic Pierrot, Mimouna Hadji, Florence Loiret-Caille.

Despite an initial forecast of smart laughs and witty tete-a-tetes, the French dramedy “Let It Rain” winds up being a partly cloudy affair that lacks the cohesiveness of Agnes Jaoui’s two previous features, “The Taste of Others” and “Look at Me.” Melancholy tale of three lovesick adults features Jaoui as a hardball politician returning to her childhood home, where she’s interviewed by two bumbling journalists (co-scribe Jean Pierre-Bacri and comic Jamel Debbouze) for a political docu that quickly turns sour. As does the pic’s humor and rhythm, which won’t prevent it from scoring well locally and overseas.

Once again setting the action in a small provincial city (in this case, Avignon) where a bunch of thirty- to fortysomethings play romantic musical chairs with their friends and co-workers, Jaoui seems to be re-mining territory that was already expertly covered in her debut, “The Taste of Others.” And although Bacri returns to play the helpless fool alongside Jaoui’s toughie feminist, the gestures feel forced this time around, while the narrative, like its three protags, loses its way in the final reels.

Opening half is both funnier and smoother, script-wise. Various gags involving amateur reporters Michel (Bacri) and Karim (Debbouze), who attempt to interview author-turned-politico Agathe (Jaoui) during an extended hometown stay, are pulled off with clever efficiency. Beyond the duo’s evident incompetence, their botched shoot is further complicated by Agathe’s nervous wreck of a sister (Pascale Arbillot), who’s having an extramarital affair with divorcee Michel, while Agathe herself tries to manage her crumbling relationship with charming b.f. Antoine (Frederic Pierrot).

Story takes an intriguing and much more serious turn with Karim, who’s actually the son of Agathe’s family’s longterm housekeeper (Mimouna Hadji), and resentful of his low social status. But he soon winds up contemplating an affair with a cute co-worker (Florence Loiret-Caille), and the unnecessary plotline detracts from his character’s interest as an outsider in a wealthy, white world. It also seems to distract the filmmaker from credibly handling the two hot topics of her scenario: immigration and women in politics.

As with her previous work, Jaoui pulls off a few genuine comic moments (a gag involving Bacri and a videocamera works best), and the dialogue is filled with the usual “bahhs,” “umms” and rapid-fire repartee that’s become her trademark. All thesps are engaging, and an uncharacteristically restrained Debbouze (“Days of Glory”) delivers one of his better perfs.

Intimate, softly lit lensing by David Quesemand highlights a pro tech package.

Let It Rain

France

Production: A StudioCanal release of a Les Films A4, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema production, with participation of Canal Plus, TPS Star. (International sales: StudioCanal, Paris.) Produced by Jean-Philippe Andraca, Christian Berard. Directed by Agnes Jaoui. Screenplay, Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), David Quesemand; editor, Francois Gedigier; production designer, Christian Marti; costume designer, Eve-Marie Arnault; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Jean-Pierre Duret, Nadine Muse, Gerard Lamps; assistant director, Antoine Garceau; casting, Brigitte Moidon. Reviewed at UGC Danton, Sept 17, 2008. (In New York Film Festival.) Running time: 96 MIN.

With: With: Agnes Jaoui, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Jamel Debbouze, Pascale Arbillot, Guillaume de Tonquedec, Frederic Pierrot, Mimouna Hadji, Florence Loiret-Caille.

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