A Parisian romantic comedy sprinkled with more than a touch of whimsy, Agnès Jaoui’s Under the Rainbow (2013) reaches for an Allen-like vibe amongst its array of love-starved characters but only partly succeeds in achieving this. Laura (Agathe Bonitzer) has a reoccurring dream where she is living a fairytale existence which ends with a Prince Charming figure waiting for her. That longing to be swept up in a full-blown romance is sated in meeting young composer Sandro (Arthur Dupont). The extent of their whirlwind courtship is revealed to family members on both sides during a soirée at Laura’s father’s luxurious home, where the story splinters and we meet Laura’s aunt Marianne (Jaoui), an actress.
Marianne, in turn, is introduced to Sandro’s divorced father Pierre (played by Jean-Pierre Bacri), who immediately strikes up a friendship with her and offers his services as a driving instructor-cum-confidant. Despite the semi-magical interludes (the introduction of some scenes comes with a painterly sheen), Jaoui’s film is a more straightforward and conventional look at the obstacles which can get in the way of love. The fairytale motifs the director plants around are fun, if a little obvious at times (Laura’s potential new suitor, Maxime Wolf, first bumps into her in a forest where she is sporting a red cloak), and she’s gathered together a strong ensemble to breathe life into her tale. Both Bonitzer and Dupont are appealing as the two lovebirds, with an almost fatalistic edge to their fledgling adoration for each other.
However, in also attempting to give equal time to the quirks and imperfections of a number of secondary characters (some of them thinly-sketched – see Laura’s plastic surgery-obsessed evil stepmother), the plight of the central duo and the subsequent love triangle which emerges feels somewhat diluted and lacking. The pacing really slackens when Laura moves on to Maxime and with a running time of 110 minutes, the film struggles to really tie the divergent story threads into a satisfying ribbon, mysteriously abandoning the more overt fantasy touches as the action progresses. Jaoui still manages to imbue her film with a fair amount of ditsy charm which can be pretty intoxicating at times. There’s undoubtedly fun to be had here – not least from Marianne and Pierre’s humorous and sometimes perceptive car banter – but Under the Rainbow is just missing a little more vibrancy and focus to make it really sing.