Movie Review: Luc Besson's Angel-A (2005): It's a Wonderful Life with Estrogen

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Angel-a gives movie viewers a chance to experience how Frank Capra's holiday film, It's a Wonderful Life, might have looked if pudgy angel Clarence was instead a tall leggy blonde female.

Unlike George Bailey, our main character Andre is not a good guy who has helped lots of people. Andre is a swindler. He lies about his heritage depending on who he is talking to. He borrows money and then loses it by gambling. Every time the bill collectors come by to collect, he has grand story of why he can't pay at the moment, but will soon. His only saving grace seems to be that he is somewhat charming and people enjoy hearing his excuses.

One evening, it seems his luck has run out and he is told to pay or be killed. He decides to end his life by jumping off a bridge. But just as he prepares to jump, he looks over and sees a stunning woman preparing to jump, also. She's over six feet tall with platinum blonde hair, long legs, and the perfect figure. Andre decides to save the goddess and can't understand why someone like her would want to kill herself. The woman's name is Angela.

Angela tells Andre she will do whatever he asks of her, and Andre asks her to help him pay back his debt. She readily agrees and the two walk around the city, coming up with ways to earn money. The two make a ridiculous but delightful pair. Angel towers over Andre by a good foot at least. And while Andre is anxious, jittery, and sneaky, Angel is calm, cool, and easygoing.

Best of all, now that Angela's with him, life seems easier and people seem to do whatever she asks. Her secret, she says, is being good. People have to treat you better when you are good. Andre has a lot to learn about who he is and what he wants out of life, and Angel-a is there to show him the way.

This was a marvelous and highly entertaining movie. It's a French film I watched with English subtitles, and it's directed by Luc Besson, director of movies Fifth Element, Taken, and Transponder. Andre and Angela are both charming and likable characters. Even though we recognize the only one holding Andre back is Andre, we still root for him throughout the movie. And though Angela is angelic, she's also not exactly what you'd expect. She chain smokes and isn't opposed to using her charms on men to get what she wants. But this adds to her humanity and helps us relate to her easier than if she was perfect and good in every way.

The setting is beautiful Paris in all of its splendor. The film was done in a crisp black and white, and Paris never looked better. The director makes good use of the city as the two walk around to different clubs, restaurants, and landmarks.

The writing on the screenplay is creative and thoughtful. There isn't a lot of action in the movie. Mostly our two main characters talk in different settings and share their thoughts. It reminded me a little of Ethan Hawke and Julia Delpy's Sunrise/Sunset trilogy with lots of revealing dialogue that establishes who are characters are. The style of the movie is much different than those films, though, because it adds elements of magical realism. Angel-a, after all, is an angel, so she can do incredible things, as well as say incredible things that will capture your emotions.

Overall, Angel-a is an impressive film that will provoke a strong response. Angel-a hints at the preciousness of life and how you can't love someone else until you love yourself.