Friday, August 6

Annette Review


Dir: Leos Carax

Starring: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg

2h 20m


In the opening 10 minutes of director Leos Carax's musical "Annette," the cast, director, and writers Ron and Russell Mael (alternatively knows as the band "Sparks") break the fourth wall and perform a surreal musical number while walking through the illuminated streets of Los Angeles. It is a moment of joyous cinema, a unique introduction that seemingly prepares the viewer for something special to follow. Unfortunately, 130 minutes later and I was still waiting for the feeling the first 10 minutes gave me. 


"Annette" is a complicated artistic vision from two complicated creative artists. Leos Carax, who helmed one of my favorite movies of the last decade, "Holy Motors," is an impressive auteur at twisting fantasy into a distinctive and startling reality. Ron and Russell Mael, featured so lovingly rare and embracingly odd in Edgar Wrights's documentary "The Sparks Brothers," have composed beautiful blends of pop-rock music throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In "Annette," these two creative forces craft a frustrating, confusing musical mishmash of emotions that seldom finds its tone and often struggles to identify what it is trying to say to the viewer. 


Henry (Adam Driver) is a comedian with a biting, cutting edge one-person performance piece. Ann (Marion Cotillard) is a world-renowned opera singer whose beautiful voice aches with torment and joy throughout every single note. Henry and Ann fall in love and begin a much-publicized relationship, making media headlines with every transition in life. Their glamorous lifestyle is a shared experience, but also a selfish one; both Henry and Ann have egos that they must compete with, both in the relationship and individually. 


Ann gets pregnant and gives birth to a little girl named Annette. Her representation is seen through the use of a wooden marionette. Henry and Ann grow further apart once Annette is born. Henry's career spirals out of control negatively, while Ann's star continues to shine brighter. Henry becomes egocentric, Ann becomes discontent, and Annette watches her parent's future falter. 


Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard give committed performances from start to finish. Driver does a great job of embracing the self-loathing, arrogant nature that grows more rotten as the character struggles to maintain relevance. Marion Cotillard lovingly imbues the tender and tormented characteristics of her ambitious opera singer. The issue with "Annette" does not exist in the level of commitment these two fine actors give their characters. Instead, it's the story they must operate.  


The Mael brothers have composed albums that challenged the contemporary norms of pop rock music, many times emulating but never copying the popular trends. They have always been distinctly individual creative minds; throughout "Annette," ideas surrounding performance, the artistic process, and even the vessel for this film, the musical genre, shift in tone that straddles the line between mockery and sincerity.


Annette, a wooden marionette with expressive features and deliberate movements, represents how the two adults, mostly Henry, view their child. The execution of this element is unsettling. While it defines Henry's devolving mentality in small ways, the story becomes so lopsided with the emotion it is trying to coerce that the subtle pieces get lost in the confusion. As the film progresses and grows less like an incredible performance piece and more like a bleak relationship drama, "Annette" never recovers.


While Leos Carax composes a few scenes with dazzling flair and enchanting whimsy, and some of the songs connect with amusing results, the majority of "Annette" feels misguided.


Monte's Rating

2.25 out of 5.00

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