October 17, 2008
Let It Rain, 2008
The insidious nature of racism and marginalization that underpins the discourse in It's Hard Being Loved by Jerks also surfaces in Let It Rain, Agnès Jaoui's third (and lightest) ensemble collaboration with screenwriter and actor, Jean-Pierre Bacri. Having scheduled a visit to her childhood home in order to help her sister, Florence (Pascale Arbillot) sort out their late mother's affairs, career oriented, Agathe Villanova (Jaoui), agrees to participate in a documentary profiling successful women that is being co-directed by a family acquaintance, Karim (Jamel Debbouze) and his mentor, Michel Ronsard (Bacri) a respected, if past his prime filmmaker. But soon, the shooting of the film becomes secondary to the unraveling controlled chaos in their lives. The son of Florence and Agathe's housekeeper, Mimouna (Mimouna Hadji) who was brought to France as a teenager by their parents during Algeria's decolonization, Karim resents his mother's subservience to the Villanova family, continuing to live with them in an adjoining, rundown shack while having to take on additional jobs in order to compensate for their inability to pay her wages. Florence, bored by her life in the country and stifled by her husband's (Guillaume De Tonquedec) neediness, embarks on an affair with the equally neurotic and insecure Michel. Agathe, eyeing a run for public office, compromises her principles by moving to town in order to take advantage of a gender-based quota that will guarantee her spot in the electoral ballot. And even the reliable Karim, juggling a marriage, independent filmmaking, and a day job as a hotel manager (appropriately named Hôtel le Terminus), soon finds his life complicated by his friendship with an attractive co-worker, Aurélie (Florence Loiret-Caille). At the heart of Jaoui's humorous and insightful observation is the implicit, often subverted power struggles that exists in all relationships: entrenched racism and classism that reinforce archaic values of hierarchical, inherited privilege, favoritisms that engender arbitrary exclusion and victimization, and traditional gender roles that suppress identity by masking the appearance of weakness. Concluding with the sequential shot of the characters seeking refuge from the rain, the image becomes a figurative return to nature and rejection of the mask, finding community in the acknowledgment of their mutual vulnerability.