Angel Francois Ozon

Based on the Elizabeth Taylor novel of the same name, Angel chronicles the rise and fall of a delusional novelist in Edwardian England in a bemused manner that suggests sly satire of both the changed landscape of filmmaking and art as exaggeration of life. The film is only partially successful in its aims, certainly finding hidden comedy in the social championing of mediocre talents and capturing the immaculate design of an era with throwback direction but struggling to maintain engagement from any perspective besides curiosity. At the age of 16, Angel Deverell (Romola Garai) is uninterested in school, given the mocking she receives from her teacher and classmates over her desire to be a famous writer, and spends her time writing in her small abode above her mother's (Jacqueline Tong) humble grocery store. Before long, Theo (Sam Neill), a notable publisher, takes a chance on the young romantic novelist despite his wife's (Charlotte Rampling) objections, launching her into the limelight. Taking on starry-eyed assistant Nora (Lucy Russell), whose Sapphic affections go unrequited, Angel finds romance in Nora's brother Esme (Michael Fassbender), whose unorthodox paintings and blunt disposition with the precocious novelist prove intriguing. Immaculate sets, colours and costumes permeate every scene, as does the deliberate influence of classic filmmakers such as Frank Capra and William Wyler. Light touches of insight, such as the increasing number of pets in Angel's home as she descends further into madness, along with her treatment of humans as pets, and the gentle unravelling of unexpected moments of nudity and sexual violation, again prove interesting but fall short of saving the film. The main issue here is that of identification. Angel is truly unlikable, which may be the point, as the audience's perspective is clearly shown through the eyes of the publisher's wife, who finds the boorishness of the novelist amusing at best. The DVD includes a half-hour "making of" with actor interviews, behind-the-scenes footage and adaptation discussions. Also included is a brief interview with lead actress Romola Garai. (Seville)