Directed by: Leos Carax
Starring: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg
Plot: A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife have a 2 year old daughter with a surprising gift.
It almost seems unfair to put that as the plot synopsis for this movie. Our official way of doing things is to copy and paste the IMDb synopsis, that way you’ve probably already seen it and we can’t spoil anything else. But here is a rare time I’ll bend that rule, for ‘Annette’ is more a character study of Adam Driver’s ‘Henry’, through his emotional story of love and heartbreak, quite the juxtaposition to the life he lives as a comedian.
This is a really hard movie to review. ‘Annette’ is one of the strangest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s really a movie that wants the individual to watch it and make their own interpretation, which I both respect and find a tad pretentious.
One thing that I can say for certain is Adam Driver is amazing. He plays a character who is clearly a tortured soul. Driver captures this perfectly but also finds the beauty in this otherwise tragic character. It’s really his show and I wouldn’t let the trailers trick you into thinking it’s a two-man show as without giving too much away, Cotillard isn’t as present in the story as one would expect. She’s good but doesn’t seem to be able to do much to say she’s brilliant. From ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Logan Lucky’ to ‘Marriage Story’, Driver is an immensely diverse actor who is becoming not just one of my favourites working today, but of all time, he is seriously great.
The same level of amazement can be carried over to the score and songs. What a year The Sparks Brothers are having, with the new Edgar Wright documentary and now this, they’re having quite the comeback and I hope that this helps lead them on to other amazing things. Their style of music in theory shouldn’t suit this movie, but as the movie and music is the same level of bonkers, it ironically complements each other and gives the movie a whole new level of WTF to it! The songs, *for the most part*, suit the scenes and the best praise I can give them is that I most often didn’t even notice when the music was starting and it all just seemed to fit the environment of the movie. I know the whole praise shouldn’t go to the Spark Brothers for this, but ‘Annette’ goes the extra step and not only is 90% of the dialogue just the characters singing, but other very minor characters who are quite far removed from the main characters also live in their musical world. When Driver’s character is doing stand up, his audience in a musical tone chant at him, towing the line between fantasy and realism, making you think if this is meant to be a fantastical world or not.
The last praise I can give ‘Annette’ is its cinematography. This movie has a ‘The Neon Demon’-esque look to it with neon lights and the look of light on otherwise dark environments. Many long takes which make the musical scenes seem more real and help you take the movie more seriously when you can easily get lost in its absurdity.
…and that absurdity is where my first main issue comes in. ‘Annette’ is trying so hard to be something unique, crazy and like nothing you’ve seen before that I think it gets caught in itself and becomes unnecessary and honestly quite pretentious. The main and biggest culprit I can give you is the child the two leads have, Annette herself, who is born as a doll?! The reason this got to me so much is even hours after watching the movie I just didn’t get what the point was at all. Also, ‘Annette’ is trying to fit on that fine line of “this may be crazy, but this is kinda the world you’re living in”, much like what ‘Parasite’ does and succeeds in. In this case, it’s simply “no”. You can’t ask me to take your film seriously when you bring a doll into a world you seem to want me to believe is real. Without spoiling anything the ending doesn’t help and actually makes things worse as it makes me think what was the point even more.
Another issue I have is a particular song in the movie which has a re-occurring theme to it as it means something personal to Driver’s character. The song is meant to be really meaning and powerful thing, like what the song of a married couples first dance means to them. Funny thing is, the song is just one line and is the most basic thing ever. Not only that, it is used in really inappropriate parts of the movie. Without being too explicit, there is an intimate scene with Driver and Cotillard and a very particular moment where they’re singing the line together where I just lost it, like tears of laughter lost it.
The directing is also kinda all over the place. I think it winning Best Director at Canne is just weird. Some may love it but I thought the pacing and use of editing in this movie is all over the place and doesn’t always know the style it’s going for. It comes back to it just so desperately wanting to be weird and unique it forgets there is an audience who at the end of the day want to be engaged. Having seen ‘Holy Motors’ I know Leos Carax is and has the potential to be a good director, but I think he lost the plot a bit with ‘Annette’.
Now, I know I’m known for being “the Oscar guy” and you’re all curious to know what I think its chances are. I’m just going to be upfront, this is not a contender. The Academy have proven time after time they don’t like weird (I still hold a grudge for them shutting out ‘The Lighthouse’ and ‘Shame’). For as great as Driver is, he’s just too out there in this movie that voters will be completely divided. I think it can pull a ‘The Lighthouse’ and pull a single nom in Original Song, but I wouldn’t hold my breathe for anything else.
All in all, ‘Annette’ is a unique, sometimes overly-unique movie about relationships and is a really interesting way to see what happens when theatre, opera, cinema and… The Sparks Brother collide.
Final Grade: B