Annette: Film Review


Courtesy of MUBI

Brace yourselves folks, you haven’t seen anything like Annette, for better or worse.

Leos Carax‘s English-language debut, a musical with Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks, stars Adam Driver as stand-up comedian Henry McHenry, who embarks on a whirlwind romance with renowned opera singer Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard). They get married and have a daughter named Annette, portrayed by a wooden marionette puppet, who has her mother’s gift. Henry becomes jealous of their talent and success as his career takes a downturn, with devastating consequences.

Annette is not your conventional movie musical, oh no. It is experimental, wild, weird and absolutely mad. Carax makes some bold and brave filmmaking choices that won’t be for everyone. It certainly wasn’t my cup of tea. I admired and respected it more than actually enjoying it. The film is way too long and I just struggled to get into it given how bonkers it was but I did ultimately come to like the story following Henry’s career downfall. I never really got past the whole “it’s a puppet” element but I thought the craftmanship of Annette was really impressive and she moved in a creepy life-like way.

The meta introductory song, So May We Start, was very good and super catchy so I had high hopes for the tunes and these were disappointing. They failed to make an impact because the majority of them sounded the same and were so meh and forgettable and I found Driver’s singing voice rather grating after a while. I think I would have liked the film more if it wasn’t a musical, which is something I never thought a musicals lover like me would ever say.

This film is Driver’s show and he gives a stunning performance as Henry. He really throws himself into the batshit craziness of it all and has a commanding, captivating presence. Henry ruins his success and comes to resent his family and descends into madness, with his onstage meltdown being particularly uncomfortable to watch.

Cotillard’s character isn’t well fleshed out, she is almost like Henry’s glossy vision of Ann rather than the actual person but the French actress was perfectly cast in the role and convinced as an opera singer. Out of all the cast members, I really hope Simon Helberg – best known for playing Howard Wolowitz in The Big Bang Theory – receives some awards attention for his supporting role in this film. He plays a very different character and did a lot with the handful of scenes he was in. There is one scene in which he talks to the camera while conducting an orchestra and the level of emotion he commanded while convincingly conducting at the same time was just astounding. That is my favourite scene in the film and it is solid proof that Helberg is capable of so much more than he has been able to showcase thus far in his career.

Carax make some big swings with Annette and the result is a over-long oddball piece that is all over the place. Many people dig it, many people (myself included) don’t.

In cinemas from Friday 3rd September

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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