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Other // R // August 6, 2021
List Price: Unknown
The musical genre goes through a cycle where it waxes and wanes in popularity. There was a period of time where musicals became a rarity from mainstream Hollywood. However, with movies such as In the Heights and the upcoming West Side Story, the genre has been a bit more in the spotlight lately. The independent film scene has also seen a few musicals being discussed. One of the more talked about titles is Annette, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Director Leos Carax (Holy Motors) went on to win the prize for Best Director at the festival and the distribution rights were purchased by Amazon Studios.
The story is primarily told from the perspective of Henry (Adam Driver), who is a successful stand-up comedian. He ultimately gets married to opera singer Ann (Marion Cotillard), as they live their lives in the spotlight. However, their relationship begins to get a bit rocky, which translates in Henry's stand-up performances, resulting in his entire career being put on the line. Henry and Ann have a young daughter together named Annette, who gets sucked into the dark world of fame and the costs that come with it.
Some musicals like In the Heights inject meaning into their songs while aiming to make enjoyable music, while others like Les Misérables use the musical element to convey dialogue. Annette seeks to do neither. Rather, it takes what a character is trying to convey, sums it into one sentence, and repeats that same sentence over and over accompanied by some music. It becomes an incredibly tedious exercise that fails to convey character, dialogue, or memorable music. Its musical style doesn't make Annette feel creative or unique, but instead feels lazy.
The characters themselves are often insufferable and one-dimensional. However, the cast does what they can with the material. While Driver certainly isn't a great singer, his performance as the stand-up comedian is exceptional. He delivers a lot of nuances that bring more intrigue to the character that make Henry feel more human. Cotillard is given a smaller role in the film, although she also turns in a strong performance. The big surprise of the film is Simon Helberg as The Conductor. You might recognize him as Howard from The Big Bang Theory, but his role here is certainly much more dramatic in nature. Helberg steals absolutely every scene that he stars in.
Those who have seen Carax's Holy Motors know how bonkers this filmmaker's work can be. While Annette hints at some interesting places, it never really goes all the way. There's no reason for the film to be 2 hours and 19 minutes long, given where the narrative goes. The tone ranges from feeling campy to utilizing fantastical visuals that start to draw the viewer into its odd world, although once there, the film doesn't have much to keep you there.
If you haven't seen Holy Motors, it's a better investment of your time to see that. I had high hopes that Carax's new musical would ‘wow' me in a similar fashion. Unfortunately, this is an overly-long film that doesn't provide much in the way of dialogue, story, music, or character. We're left with a few strong performances and solid visuals, which isn't enough to compensate for lacking everything else. The film often goes out of its way to avoid the audience ever forming any emotional connection with its story or its characters. Annette is a hard slog of pretentious and tedious storytelling.