Directed By Leos Carax
Starring – Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg
The Plot – Los Angeles, nowadays. Henry (Driver) is a stand-up comedian with a fierce humor. Ann (Cotillard), an internationally renowned opera singer. Together, under the spotlight, they form a happy and glamorous couple. The birth of their first child, Annette, a mysterious girl with an exceptional destiny, will turn their lives upside down.
Rated R for sexual content including some nudity, and for adult language
– Categorically diverse. At its very core, “Annette” is a rock opera musical persisting through the dark and devastating tragedies of life, but the experience is far too bizarre and against-the-grain to ever be condensed and bottled to being just one thing. Part of this, from an advantageous perspective, is that the film itself is quite literally unlike anything else you’ve seen this year, so in that perspective it’s wildly unpredictable at maintaining your attention despite the inane craziness that fills the fantastical spectacle of the movie’s screenplay. The other certainly pertains Carax’s whimsically ominous enveloping in direction, which underlines the love, loss, and greed in the movie with an underwhelming layer of karma that we as the audience know will eventually make its presence felt. This is Leos’ first English speaking film in the entirety of his career, but one that never lags in capturing the essence and ideals within American culture that often get the best of its dreamers, all the while outlining an experimental plunge into ambition that never relents.
– Monumental themes. Despite a majority of this movie feeling so unconventional in everything from its presentation to the many movements of its characters, the storytelling itself is satisfyingly accessible on its way to conveying some of the more relatable battles that bridges the gap from the celebrity of the characters to the humanity of our responsibilities. Themes about love, and what it means to fall in love with a person without truly knowing them, greed and ensuing lust, and even youth exploitation are just a few of the psychological and emotional baggage that this script unloads at the feet of its audience, with depictions that take all of life’s blessings for granted in ways that only celebrities can truly even attempt and feel free from harm. On top of it all, the stakes and circumstances stemming from these very realistic decisions adds an element of danger previously unforeseen for a majority of musicals, making this the satisfying exception that has a riveting climax that seems to resonate even after the credits roll.
– Amazing production value. With only a measly 15 million dollar budget at its disposal, the magnitude of intoxicating visuals and various color pallets warmed their way into one of the more hypnotically entrancing experiences of the entire summer season. Everything from the three-dimensional set designs emitting a stage-like enveloping, to the grandiose sedation of the breathtaking cinematography from longtime Carax collaborator Caroline Champetier, exude an out of this world experience that feels as boldly beautiful and daring as anything I’ve ever seen from a musical, with a scale in stakes that evolves with the complexity of the unraveling sequence before it. Finally, the color schemes and coordination in each frame dazzle with artistic merit, offering no shortage of freeze frame opportunities that can hang on any office or living room wall of its choosing.
– Devastating duo. The work of Driver and Cotillard is nothing short of brilliant for the eclectic range and scene-stealing captivity that each of them supplant to their respective roles. For Driver, it’s the opportunity as Henry to challenge himself emotionally in ways that are foreign to the magnitude of his typical release, reserving his outbursts in ways that are synthetic with the beats and movements of the songs his words accommodate, but ones that are emphatically detectable nonetheless. For Marion, when she isn’t blowing us away with the eye-opening capabilities in her actual falsetto range accompanying the movie’s many musical sequences, it’s her watery eyed registry that connects to our underlining empathy for the character, which often feels like a prisoner in the life that she herself has chosen. The chemistry between them also illustrates a believability in the context of an aging celebrity couple expanding with the perils of uneven fandom, giving us countless opportunity of palpable tension between them that serves as the best moments of the movie’s dramatic muscle.
– Special effects. It pleases me greatly that “Annette” is the second movie this week that combines the necessity for C.G and practical effects accordingly, when deemed necessary. For the practical side of things, we receive this gruesomely grotesque decomposition and aging dynamic within two particular characters that not only transforms the familiarity in their respective likenesses, but also touches on the few examples of horror influence that Carax and company occasionally tiptoe across. For the computer generation, a wooden puppet serving as the embodiment of the titular child protagonist carries with it a weight and influence that honestly made me question if it was practical, which in turn serves as another in the mounting testaments to Carax’s impactful directing. After receiving clarification from production notes following my experience with the film, I was astounded at how realistic and synthetic it feels despite the obviousness of its interaction with human characters surrounding her, making me feel all the more enthused for the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro “Pinocchio”, which I feel can’t come soon enough.
– Soulful inspiration. For my money, most of the blood flowing through the movie’s veins giving it life is the triumphantly exaggerated musical score from those lovable brothers in Sparks, which brings some of their more hauntingly magnified work of their fifty year musical careers. Part of my astonishment is the consistency to which their music is called upon throughout, serving as the literal structure to which the dialogue from the characters moves and deposits throughout, but what’s equally impressive are the variety of their compositions, which grant a freeing versatility tonally that allows the film’s creative capacities to lose itself in the maniacal nature of the madness at the forefront. Sparks and Carax are the perfect marriage of cinematic bliss for our audible senses, and cement one of the more dynamic combinations that are never limited to just being an audible capacity, but a visual one as well, with the brothers making a couple of appearances throughout to feed into the psychological satire that they themselves help supplant.
– Lingering pacing. Even with a magnitude of meaty themes and enough toe-tapping tracks to fill three albums of soundtrack selections, the necessity of a nearly two-and-a-half hour film dramatically stretches the material in ways that hamers the point home with no degree of subtlety. For a presentation that is extraordinary in all angles of production, the storytelling itself feels mundane and simplified to the point that it left very little in terms of interpretation to resonate long after the audience has concluded with the experience. In addition to this, the songs themselves are remarkably balanced and full of depth and personality to the sequences they accommodate, but the lack of downtime from them leaves the format feeling stale and repetitive too quickly in the narrative, and in tow leaves much of bigger events in this family’s unraveling feeling like they lack the kind of emphasis needed to resonate the tragedy. Feels too much like a play, and not enough like a compelling cinematic narrative.
– Scrambled sound. Most of the production for me was nearly perfect, and I say that because each of the elements instilled made for an experience that added something palpable to the presentation it weaved into. The exception, however, is definitely in the sound mixing and occasional editing for the film, which muffle performances in a way that distort the voices of the actors. There were multiple times throughout the experience with my state of the art flat screen TV that I misunderstood particular lyrics, resulting in several rewinds that I eventually grew tired of, and decided to turn on subtitles for the rest of my watch. On the editing levels, I feel like the music can occasionally feel boisterously intruding on the clarity of the dialogue, especially that of Cotillard, who relies more on operatic registries than the soft spoken approach of Driver, whose bass-dominated registries can never be mistook.
– Flat characterization. Even with the understanding that the characters being detestable people is intentional, the lack of ensuing illustration to their respective characters makes it all the more difficult to invest in their characters, or even cheer at their plights. This is the problem with the first act, the initial minutes of a movie that allow us to meet and convey what about the characters makes them special, or at the very least different. That concept comes with a price tag in “Annette”, because not only are the characters dully diluted from one to the next, but there isn’t anything about them other than their selfishness that I could even attempt to write a two sentence summary about. It makes 142 minutes all the more tedious when you come to understand that these are the one-dimensional occupants for your experience, making “Annette” feel like a self-loathing exercise in futility that never gets easier the longer you spend with them.
My Grade: 7/10 or C+