Agnès Jaoui lives to puncture the bubbles of her characters. The writer/actress/director of the keenly observed films The Taste of Others and Look at Me is the Parisian Elaine May, an A-plus student of human behavior that straddles the border between comedy and tragedy.

The slightest of her films, Let It Rain is a farce revolving around characters whose dreams unravel and are re-woven. Jaoui is Agathe Villanova, a forthright feminist and aspiring politician who returns to Provence to sort out the estate of her late mother and float a campaign trial balloon.

The film plumbs the paradox that Agathe's strength irritates those who lean on her. They want her support, but they also want to pull the rug from under her.

These include: Agathe's beau, who's tired of taking a backseat to her professional ambition; her younger sister, Florence, jealous of Agathe's success but too shy to ask for financial support; and Karim (Jamel Debbouze), son of the domestic who raised Agathe and Florence, still aggrieved at Agathe for a social slight, yet happy to exploit her for a documentary he's making about powerful women.

Karim's codirector, Michel (Jean-Pierre Bacri), is a Gallic Larry David, comically annoyed and annoying, an incompetent filmmaker who rages against Agathe's competency. (Bacri, it should be noted, cowrote the script, and in real life is Jaoui's ex-husband.)

At times Let It Rain recalls one of those Katharine Hepburn comedies where the New Woman gets cut down to size so as not to intimidate the Old-School Men. Yet the film so likably deflates the pompous and pumps up the humble that it's hard not to like.EndText

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/