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Movie Review: Let It Rain

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After 200 mostly political articles for Blogcritics, I needed to do something completely different. Intending to see a light and humorous movie to briefly take me away from my dark despair over Washington and oil spills, I elected to see the alleged French comedy Let It Rain, written and directed by (and starring) husband-and-wife French actors Agnès Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri. I just wish it had rained a lot harder, but this isn't the rainy season in Southern California. I'm just glad I saw it for the matinée price!

In an interview with Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times, Jaoui declares,  "I'm trying to beat Woody Allen" yet she attempts to do so while being completely unarmed without so much as a cudgel. As Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan gently writes in his review of Let It Rain, "…Agnès Jaoui and her writing partner Jean-Pierre Bacri … started their film careers as actors and that their latest effort, Let It Rain, makes that fact evident." Maybe Allen could do something with this theme of professional jealousy and make something of it.

I may just be a Philistine when it comes to French cinema, but I'm hard-pressed to define what the plot of this movie is. It appears to me to be a montage of disparate elements that never gel into a whole. There really is no central thread around which the plot can develop. You just have to work out what the hell is going on from the next scene being slapped into your face. As a consumer of entertainment, that doesn't suit me at all.

What I did notice is that Let It Rain revolves around a famous feminist author who wants to enter politics in her home town. She meets up with a has-been/wannabe team of videographers seeking to capitalize on her fame. These two "journalists" aren't competent enough in their day jobs not to be needing to spend more time Dumpster-diving to survive, yet somehow they convince this Paris-based and media-experienced author to use up a great deal of her time assisting with this project. This collaboration wouldn't have lasted one day in real life, and isn't fantastic enough to work as farce.

While this combination is potentially fertile ground for comedic development, not one of the actors really seems to care much about doing so. What little real comedy does occur came mostly from comparing portions of  the film's vignettes with my own real-life experiences, from which I could decipher something resembling humor. At least to me, that is. The movie didn't seem to cause much laughter from the others in the audience. My wife fell asleep.

This lack of laughter generation (unless there is something about the French sense of humor which completely escapes me) may be why there are so many distracting side plots involving friends and relatives of these three main characters, none of which do much to develop the story. Let It Rain is no Queen To Move, another French film co-starring Kevin Kline which I happened to enjoy very much. It's more like a bad high school filmmaking project, except that the visual quality of the film is relatively good.

In yet another interview with amNewYork, Jaoui maybe lets out the reason this flick comes off so badly. She admits that "…our intention is … to give messages…" but then complicates the delivery of these messages by dismissing their importance in declaring, "…it is almost burlesque…" Kenneth Turan picks up on this, noting that "…Let It Rain's serious side and its farce elements don't always cohere…"

I have to strongly agree. Of the entire cast, only the amateur with no previous acting experience (Mimouna Hadji, playing the aged housekeeper) seems to understand innately what her role in this movie is. She is the Earth Mother to which all of the other characters have some kind of connection, the hub they revolve around as they mindlessly flit from one ridiculous situation to another. In fact, she was the only character I even cared about. She was the only one who seemed real. Her performance is the only one I'd even recommend anyone see in this movie.

Mme Jaoui may well be an acclaimed director, noted for The Taste of Others and 24 Hours in the Life of a Woman, but I have not seen either one and cannot comment on whether this renown is merited. All I can say is that Let It Rain is flooded with ill-conceived combinations and watered-down character interaction. The only recommendation I can make would be to UCLA film production students to see this movie as a lesson on how not to make a movie.

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